Bullying at school can take many forms but for one Salford teen it progressed well beyond playground name-calling – even causing her to self-harm because she felt so alone and helpless.
As Manchester schools unite for Beat Bullying week, which began yesterday and runs all week, MM met with Natasha*, who suffered at the hands of bullies throughout her school years.
Nationally 69% of young people report bullying, but many cases go unnoticed as children struggle to determine the fine line between playground teasing and becoming a victim of abuse.
Natasha said: “I’ve faced bullying my whole life, and children who look, sound or even act differently to others seem to be targeted.”
Most scarily, Natasha claimed that bullying can have an effect on a person not only when they are being bullied, but well into their lives.
“I used to struggle to get up in the mornings; it’s so hard for so many people who have faced abuse by others to be motivated to do anything with their lives.
“I have turned in the past to hurting myself because bullies try to make you feel tiny and insignificant and the more people say and do horrible things like that the more you start to believe that as the truth.”
And although reported cases of bullying in the North West are in decline, many young people still suffer in silence.
“My life has been shaped by bullies, I haven’t got any confidence and my family and personal life has suffered greatly because of the things that people say,” Natasha said.
Anti-bullying week is now reaching its tenth year of helping victims to speak out, whether it is racial, homophobic or cyber bullying.
Natasha hopes that by telling her story, she can encourage other people to come forward and ask for help.
“I’m lucky because I reached a point in my life and couldn’t take the abuse anymore, and I realised that there were people I could turn to, but children – and adults – that are being targeted need to realise that there is help available,” she said.
“National anti-bullying week really highlights just how much of a problem bullying is for a lot of people.”
Anti-bullying week runs from November 19-23 and the Guardian Teacher Network (GTN) has a range of resources available exploring the impact of bullying.
According to the GTN, 16,000 11-15-year-olds are absent due to bullying every year and 20% say that cyber bullying has made them reluctant to go to school.
For more information on workshops and roadshows as part of Anti-Bullying Week 2012, visit here.
*This is a pseudonym as she wished to remain anonymous.