Half of young people bullied at school experience mental health problems

Teachers and GPs are calling for more support for young people after a study revealed serious mental health consequences were experienced by those pupils who had been bullied at school.

Research by the Anti-Bullying Alliance, released to coinicide with the start of Anti-Bullying Week (16-20 November), found that out of nearly 1,500 people, around two thirds had been bullied.

Of those who had been bullied, nearly half (44 per cent) said the experience impacted on their mental health and that they experienced issues such as anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

The study showed nearly half (46 per cent) said that being bullied had a long-lasting effect on their self-esteem and confidence since leaving school and almost 37 per cent of those bullied said it had a negative effect on their ability to form personal relationships.

Nearly three quarters of the 170 teachers surveyed said they felt ill-equipped to support children with mental health issues related to bullying. Meanwhile of 126 GPs questioned, 92 per cent said they had received no formal training, resources or information to help them support children and young people with symptoms relating to bullying.

Lauren Seager-Smith, national co-ordinator of the Anti-Bullying Alliance, said bullying was a public health issue.

"We all need to play our part to stop bullying wherever and whenever it happens - whether it's in school, the community or online - but it's vital that we also invest in support for children and families impacted by bullying.

"We would like to see more training for teachers and health professionals, in school counselling, and much-needed funds for child and adolescent mental health services."

Heather Stewart, Chair of the Association of Child Psychotherapists, agreed that the impact of bullying can be extremely damaging to its victims and called for more early interventions to help teachers and parents identify when a child is being bullied.

"We also need increased resources to provide psychotherapy to children whose mental health has been affected by bullying and who have lost self-belief and hope," she said.