Being an Upstander
At The Diana Award, we define an Upstander as
‘someone who recognises when something is wrong and acts to make it right’.
This is also what it means to be an Anti-Bullying Ambassador – someone who challenges harmful behaviours and helps to protect the person experiencing them.
We have compiled a list of the most common questions that we have heard from young people to help ease your worries and make it as simple as possible to become an Upstander.
What if I am not confident enough to be an Upstander?
It can take a lot of courage to be an Upstander and you might worry that you might not have enough confidence enough to take on this role.
Everyone has different strengths, and the most important thing is to take actions that feel safe and comfortable for you. Maybe you do not feel comfortable directly challenging the person displaying the bullying behaviour or worry it may be unsafe to intervene - and we agree! It’s important to ensure you don’t place yourself in harm's way so instead of directly confronting someone displaying bullying behaviour, you could calmly lead the person experiencing it away from that situation. It’s also important to never join in, as this could signal to the person displaying the behaviour that they should continue.
We encourage you to report any bullying behaviour you see or hear to a teacher or other trusted adult. You could also support the person experiencing the bullying behaviour by simply asking ‘are you ok?’ This is a small but mighty question that can make all the difference! Every positive action counts.
What if I don't know what to do?
So, you are faced with a situation, and you are unsure what to do. Don’t worry! That is ok!
As an Anti-Bullying Ambassador, you will have a great network of people around you that can help you if you are unsure. This can include your team of fellow Anti-Bullying Ambassadors and trusted adults, such as parents/guardians and teachers. Go to them and ask for support if you're ever unsure - they are there to help you!
What if the person experiencing bullying behaviour does not want me to help them or ‘get involved’?
If you see someone in the playground or classroom experiencing bullying behaviour, you might go up to them and offer your support. However, if that person does not want to talk to you that is also ok – it is important that we offer to help but also respect that person’s decision to say no.
Nevertheless, you should still follow-up with a trusted adult as soon as possible after you have seen or heard any type of bullying behaviour. This is because reporting to a trusted adult can help to ensure that the person is safe and getting the support they need.
What if people start acting cautious around me because they think I'm a ‘snitch’ or a ‘snake’?
Names like ‘snitch’ and ‘snake’ discourage people from reporting and create a culture where young people feel afraid to tell. Yet, it is important to remember that ‘snitching’ is not the same as ‘reporting.’ While ‘snitching’ gets someone into trouble, ‘reporting’ gets someone out of trouble (AntiBullying Pro article on ‘Peer Pressure’).
We would want someone to help us get out of trouble and that is why we should all report bullying behaviour and encourage others to do the same.
If you still have concerns about being called a ‘snitch’, remember that there are many different ways to report. For instance, as an Anti-Bullying Ambassador team, you could create a box in school where students can post their concerns rather than going up to a teacher. You could even have an anti-bullying email address that students can contact if they would prefer to report online.
These types of reporting tools can help to protect the anonymity of the reporter. This means that the person’s identity is protected so that nobody else knows that it was them that reported the bullying behaviour to the teacher, which might make everyone feel more confident to tell.
What if the perpetrator is someone in my friendship group? I don't want them to stop liking me.
It can be really hard to be an Upstander when the person exhibiting the bullying behaviour is one of your friends. However, you must remember that you are challenging the behaviour itself, and NOT your friend.
If you feel comfortable enough to do so, you could calmly explain to your friend why their behaviour is unkind. This might also give other people in your friendship group the confidence to become Upstanders as well!
Honesty is important in any friendship, and you should not have to worry that they will stop liking you for sharing your concerns - your friends should always respect your views and feelings.
We also have a support article on dealing with peer pressuremight be helpful.
What if I am afraid of the person/people displaying the bullying behaviour?
You might be afraid of the person displaying the bullying behaviour. You might even have concerns that they will hurt you if you act to challenge their harmful behaviour.
This is why it is important to intervene safely and never put your own personal safety at risk. Acting aggressively or confrontationally is never the answer! For instance, if a physical fight has broken out in the playground, it would be unsafe to try to fight back or to break it up. Instead, it is about acting calmly and remembering to report to a trusted adult immediately, such as a teacher in the playground. They can help to ensure that the situation is dealt with in a safe manner for everyone.
Remind yourself that you would never be expected to do something that makes you feel unsafe. If you ever feel unsure or afraid, ask a trusted adult for advice. Similarly, if you ever did experience bullying behaviour for being an Upstander, take the same actions you would take if it had happened to someone else. Make sure to report it to your fellow Anti-Bullying Ambassadors and a trusted adult as soon as possible.
What if I tell the teacher but they don’t take any notice?
Your teachers in school are always there to support and protect you. There are also policies and procedures in place to help keep you safe, such as your school’s behaviour policy and Anti-Bullying policy.
If you tell a trusted adult or teacher about bullying behaviour, they should know the steps to take that align with your school’s policies and procedures. Sometimes they might deal with issues behind the scenes or need to talk to other teachers or students about what is going on, which might take time.
However, if you feel that your concern has not been taken seriously or the behaviour is continuing, it is important that you go back to the same teacher or another trusted adult to discuss your worries. You could also verbalise the actions that would best help you so that the teacher knows how to support you moving forward.
The Diana Award also has many free support articles that may be helpful, and our free Diana Award Crisis Messenger service if you ever need to talk to someone.
As an Upstander, you are playing a huge part in ensuring that all young people in our schools and communities feel safe and valued! Well done, you! As Anti-Bullying Ambassadors, you can also help to promote being an Upstander through your team’s campaign planning. For instance, you could run an assembly answering any questions young people in your school have about being one, such as the ones outlined in this article. This will help to ensure all young people in your school feel confident in standing up to bullying behaviour and contribute towards your team earning the Wellbeing Badge.