What can I do if my friend is being bullied?
First, it’s important to understand what bullying behaviour is.
The Diana Award defines bullying behaviour as
“repeated, negative behaviour that is intended to make others feel upset, uncomfortable or unsafe”.
Types of bullying behaviour_
Verbal - the repeated, negative use of speech, sign language, or verbal gestures to intentionally hurt others e.g. using hurtful words, discriminatory or offensive language, swear words.
Indirect - the repeated, negative use of actions, which are neither physical nor verbal, to intentionally hurt others e.g. spreading rumours, purposefully excluding another person, damaging or stealing someone’s property and cyberbullying.
Physical - the repeated, negative use of body-contact to intentionally hurt others e.g. kicking, punching, slapping, inappropriate touching, and spitting.
If you’re worried about a friend who’s experiencing any of these kinds of bullying behaviour, it can be very concerning and although you want to help, it can sometimes be hard to know how best to do this. Even by doing something that might seem small, you can show that you are there to support them.
It’s great to see that you are being a supportive friend by wanting to find out more and by reading this article.
Here are our top tips:
1_You can't promise to keep a secret
When it comes to being a good friend, keeping secrets is what it’s all about, right? On many occasions, that might just be true! We’ve all had times when we have either been asked to keep a secret or promise not to tell anyone else something.
But when it comes to something serious, like experiencing bullying behaviour, you can’t promise to keep secrets, as this might not be the best way to support your friend.
You could start your conversation with them by saying something like,
“I really want to help you. I hate that you’re being experiencing bullying behaviour and I want to help it stop. I'm here to listen and to support you but I can’t promise to keep a secret; if you or someone else is at risk of harm, then I will need to tell a responsible adult”.
By telling them this at the start, they know that you are going to take them seriously and that, if they tell you that they are at risk of harming themselves or someone else, you will need to tell a responsible adult like a teacher or family member. If someone is at immediate risk of harm to themselves or to someone else, call 999.
2_Let them know you are there to listen
Bullying behaviour can make someone feel alone; let them know that you are there to support and listen to them. Send them supportive messages and check-in regularly. Ask them how you can help, rather than just telling them what they need to do. This is a way you can empower them and give them back control. By listening well and allowing them to come up with their own solutions, you are being a supportive friend.
3_Encourage them to speak to a trusted adult at school
Encourage them to talk to a favourite teacher or their school’s Safeguarding Lead about the bullying behaviour they are experiencing. All schools have a duty of care to protect their pupils and to ensure a safe learning environment. Together, you could work out what they would like to say by writing it down and practicing together. If you go to the same school, perhaps you could go with them to speak with the teacher if they would like you to. If the person displaying bullying behaviour doesn’t go to the same school as your friend, you should still encourage them to speak to a member of staff in school. They can get in touch with the school the other student attends.
4_Encourage them to screenshot/report/block
If the bullying behaviour is taking place online, encourage your friend to screenshot for evidence. They can use this evidence when reporting to a trusted adult. Tell them about the importance of reporting on social media – they can report any photos/comments/videos that make them feel upset, uncomfortable or unsafe. They could also use the block function so that the person displaying bullying behaviour online can no longer get in contact or see what they are posting.
5_Encourage them to speak to a trusted adult at home
Whether this is their parent/carer, cousin, granny... having the support of someone in their home is so important. Encourage them to have a think about who this person could be.
6_Encourage your friend to keep a diary of events
It might be hard for your friend to recall exactly what has happened when they come to speak to a trusted adult. By writing down when, where, who and what has happened, it will be easier for your friend to recall events.
We don’t know all the answers and your friend certainly won’t be expecting you to either! That’s why telling your friend about support services that can help them in ways that you aren’t able to IS a way of helping them. You could suggest that they get in contact with Childline on 0800 1111 or use The Diana Award Crisis Messenger, which provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK – simply text DA to 85258 and trained volunteers will listen to how your friend is feeling and help them think through the next step towards feeling better.
8_Reflect on how you're feeling
It could make you feel quite stressed and anxious supporting a friend who’s experiencing bullying behaviour – it's important to look after yourself. So take 5 minutes to check in with yourself and see how you’re doing. Remember, if you need support – speak to a friend or trusted adult.
9_Tell them how awesome they are
Experiencing bullying behaviour can make you feel low and might make your self-esteem or self-confidence drop. A way that you can brighten your friend’s day is by telling them how great they are! Now's the time to tell them! Or perhaps you could do something you enjoy doing together to take their mind off things – you could do a dance challenge, bake a cake or watch a film together. Choose something you both love and will make you both feel positive!
We hope these hints and tips have helped. Remember, by checking out this article, you are already showing that you care and are a supportive friend!