In whatever form, bullying behaviour can have a serious impact on someone’s physical and mental health; it can harm someone’s self-confidence, feelings of self-worth and, in some cases, ability to connect and trust others.
At The Diana Award, we define bullying behaviour as
‘repeated, negative behaviour that is intended to make others feel upset, uncomfortable or unsafe’.
If someone is targeted because of their actual or perceived wealth or socioeconomic background, this is class or status-based bullying behaviour. This can have an equally negative effect as any other type of bullying behaviour and can damage someone’s perception of themself, both in the moment and in later life.
Other forms of bullying behaviour, such as racial or homophobic bullying behaviour, are also hate crimes, as they are discriminatory towards a protected characteristic – but how many young people get to choose their wealth, class or status? This is another aspect of a young person that they cannot control or change and yet is often a reason for discrimination and bullying behaviour. A 2010 Government report explained how poorer pupils face being ‘derided or shunned’ by rich classmates (Paton, 2010). This is supported by a study from 2014 which states that victims of bullying behaviour are more likely to come from a lower-income family (Tippett, N., & Wolke, D. 2014).
I know this happens in my school. What can I do?
If you know there are students in your school who face this type of discrimination, it’s important to reach out to them and offer your support. Sometimes just having that one person to talk to, to be there and to reassure them can make a huge difference. Not sure what to say? Try a simple ‘how are you?’ to start a conversation.
But I’m not an expert or a counsellor – I don’t know what to say.
Don’t worry – no one is expecting you to be an expert. We’ve got some helpful phrases we teach our Anti-Bullying Ambassadors around the country that can help you in this situation:
1. Don’t promise to keep any secrets. If someone is telling you about their experience of bullying behaviour and they mention something serious that you think may put them or others at risk of harm, it is your duty to tell someone – a trusted adult, parent or teacher.
2. Build that person back up and congratulate them on doing the right thing by telling you. So many young people experiencing bullying behaviour every day around the country and they never tell a soul. If someone does confide in you, celebrate that and let them know they’ve made the right decision. Try saying something like ‘Thank you for telling me. I appreciate how difficult that must have been.’
3. Try to get as much information as you can and just let that person speak in their words, in their own time. Don’t rush them or ask them to talk about something before they are ready to tell you.
4. Finally, allow that person to decide how they want to deal with the situation. Do they want to tell a parent or a teacher? Do they want you to talk to the other person/people involved? It is not your responsibility to fix this issue or deal with it for them but you can support them every step of the way.
Following these simple steps could make a real difference to someone experiencing bullying behaviour and could change their lives forever. Be bold, be an Upstander and be the change you want to see in the world.
The Diana Award Crisis Messenger provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you are a young person in crisis, you can text DA to 85258. Trained volunteers will listen to how you’re feeling and help you think the next step towards feeling better.