When bullies win, depression begins

What is bullying, how does it affect others, and what can you do about it


Kayla, Writer

Though National Bullying Prevention Month is in October, bullying is a phenomenon that happens, unfortunately, daily. The act of bullying happens far too often, and one in four children and teens in the U.S suffer the physical, mental and emotional consequences of bullying.

Bullying is when an individual or a group of people with more power, repeatedly and intentionally cause harm to another person or group of people who feel helpless to respond, according to the National Centre Against Bullying website. Psychology teacher Julie Grucza believes that bullying can be hard to perceive and understand as students get older.

“Bullying looks like a lot of different things,” Gruzca said. “Generally it is a persistent behavior that whoever is on the receiving end of it perceives it to be something that is not a joke. It’s not fun, it’s actually having a detrimental impact on them, and I think that’s a key thing with bullying because a lot of people are like ‘Well I was just joking around!’ But if you are doing it consistently, and the person perceives it negatively and not as I’m-just-joking-around then it’s bullying. You might have the occasional instance where someone just calls someone out, being a jerk to them. That’s not necessarily bullying, usually, it’s a more persistent behavior.”

The program PACER Center is the organization to create the National Bullying Prevention Program, which made the month of October its awareness month. Because of this program, national awareness has been set in place to teach students what bullying is and how to identify and report it. The purpose is about raising awareness for what you can do as a bystander to bullying and to discuss the various ways ongoing bullying goes unnoticed or isn’t dealt with.

“[The program did is] not even so much of bullying, but also raising awareness of what you can do about it and the various ways we don’t realize [what] bullying is, especially the older generation,” Gruzca said. “We don’t realize that bullying takes place, like what it actually is and the subtle ways that it happens that people might not actually identify, like ‘Hey! That’s actual bullying!’”

Understanding bullying is critical. The most important factor that needs to be specifically taught are the effects of bullying. Bullying is more than physical and aggressive behavior; it can be emotionally and mentally driven as well, yet many think of it as physical. Bullying goes deeper than joking around or teasing. Bullying can be found in many types of relationships as well. While commonly discussed to be between peers at school, bullying can take form in friendships, relationships, can be work-related or online-based and can range from persistent teasing to domestic violence.

“There’s a ton of types of bullying,” Gruzca said. “A lot of them are more prevalent in social media… bullying in that way [results in] people not seeing it quite the same, like people who are doing it don’t see it quite as harmful but bullying can happen in any kind of relationship, like ‘Oh they’re just my friends’ but well I’m like ‘are actually hurting you? And if they are, are they really your friends?’ Also, you can have bullying relationships. You can start talking [about how] that is a more abusive relationship than bullying, but it can happen in any kind of relationship.”

Most forms of bullying leave physical wounds and scars, however, they also leave mental ones. Teens who frequently experience bullying become susceptible to mental issues like depression, anxiety, aggressive tendencies and even suicidal thoughts and behaviors. According to Wolters Kluwer Health on Science Daily, more than 1 in 20 children in the United States suffer from anxiety and depression and in the years 2011-12, about 2.6 million children were diagnosed with anxiety and depression. Bullying can have a direct correlation to these disorders. In the article Consequences of Bullying, it is stated that the psychological effects of bullying include depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, self-harming behavior, alcohol and drug use and dependence, aggression, and involvement in violence or crime.

“What CAN’T derive from bullying?” Gruzca said. “Obviously, you have social anxiety issues; they’re gonna be a big thing, especially for someone who is constantly bullied, they’re not gonna want to interact. Depression can lead to suicidal thoughts and things like that. Essentially, even things like aggressive tendencies can come out in response to bullying. As far as psychological, it depends, but the ideas of self-interest and personality and how you are going to interact with the outside world are affected.”

The struggles of self-worth and self-esteem are compromised at the hands of bullying and children with fragile minds hurt the most. Chemically, mental disorders, such as depression, are caused due to an imbalance in the chemical levels in the brain, which results in mood swings and altered behavior, threatening one’s sense of self. That person is at higher risk of being unmotivated, moody, lonely, insecure, and self-harming. It affects the way one thinks and can drive a person to chronic melancholy.

“Depression is going to change the chemical makeup in your body,” Gruzca said. “You’re not going to get those balanced moods like you’re supposed to, like if your chemical balance is correct, you should have relatively balanced moods. The way depression affects your mood, your behaviors, and your psychological activities is that you’re not going to be able to achieve or find happy moments in things that you, before, may have found as happy moments. And you are going to perhaps struggle to get motivated to do anything. Essentially, your serotonin levels are usually messed up, and since you are struggling to find motivation because you are not finding pleasure in things that you would normally find pleasure in life becomes like an epic struggle that you are just not willing to take on.”

The consequences of bullying tend to affect one’s mental and social health. As social beings, humans develop what we know as social health. Being involved in the social world can allow for a person to express themselves openly, experience social gatherings and events, and develop friendships and relationships with others. However, those diagnosed and/or susceptible to social anxiety have difficult experiences with fitting in with social groups and tend to isolate themselves in response, and this can be a target for bullying.

“Social anxiety disorders are a thing, anxiety disorders, in general, are a thing,” Gruzca said. “And if you have social anxiety then it’s that much harder for you to want to, or not as much want to, are willing to reach out and connect with other people. And one of the best ways to help you get through anything or any kind of mental issue is to be able to reach out and connect with other people. So it just makes the situation worse because you are unwilling or afraid to go and reach out and get help.”

Teens who experience bullying suffer from isolation and can develop social fears stemming from anxiety, preventing them from developing healthy relationships. Bullying is aimed to hurt people with unmatched power, whether that power is social, economic, or physical strength. And sometimes a person having such power, not only is a threat to the target, but to those around them, they are worth avoiding. Though, not necessarily a target, bystanders of bullying may feel that keeping quiet is the best way to protect themselves and their social standing. No one wants to be a target for bullying, however, concern of social suicide for standing up for a victim is not warranted. Simply addressing the situation and standing up for someone goes a long way in helping them, and it allows for them to see that there are people out there willing to help. So, how can you help combat bullying?

“I think reporting is obviously a key factor there and I think working on the mindset, like if you report a bully, then you are just being a nark. This is a mindset I’ve noticed in teenagers, like you don’t want to go and nark on someone or say something bad about someone. You don’t want people to think you’re that kind of person; it relays into bullying as well, like you see it happen but you don’t want to be THAT person who reports it and known as that person,” Gruzca said. “So I think the first step is to try to break that mentality, that it’s ok to actually speak about this stuff. Nobody of value should be putting you down on the fact that you spoke out against it.”

Reporting bullying is about speaking to a trusted adult that will handle the situation with the intentions of helping the targeted individual. There have been cases where, if bullying is reported, nothing is done to stop it. If this is the case, don’t give up in helping that person. The best thing you can do to help someone who suffers from depression, anxiety, bullying, is be there. The best comfort for one’s mental distress is having someone to share their pain with.

“Honestly, I think the biggest thing to do is for people who are struggling with depression and social anxiety is just to let them know that you’re there because if they have social anxiety, unless you are a really close friend, they’re probably not gonna reach out to you,” Gruzca said. “If they have depression, they really just kind of need to know that people are there for them, that people actually care. You can’t force someone to go and do things like let’s go do this to make you feel better, you can just be there and support them, that’s the best thing you can do.”