Information Centre

What to do if you’re being bullied


When you’re dealing with bullying it can feel like there’s nothing you can do about it. You can convince yourself that trying to stop it might make things worse.

If it’s happening in school, telling a teacher can seem like the last thing you want to do. Will your parents freak out and make a big fuss about it?

If it’s happening in work, will anyone even believe you?

Everyone has the right to live, work, study and play in an environment free from bullying, harassment, discrimination and violence.

No one deserves or asks to be bullied and you certainly shouldn’t go through it on your own. Don’t forget that. There are things you can do about it.

Asking someone for advice

Telling someone else is really important. If you feel threatened or you think you might be in danger. Don’t keep it to yourself.

You’re not giving in and there’s nothing weak about reporting it or asking for advice. Anyone would need help with that.

If you’re dealing with bullying, be it verbal, physical, online or on your phone, it can really help how you feel by telling someone and asking for advice.

This can take a bit of courage, but you’ll be amazed by how much better you feel just by getting it off your chest.

Asking for support is actually a pretty brave move. Not sure what to say or how it could help? Read up on the benefits of talking to someone.

Who to ask

There are loads of people who might be able to help. Talk to your friends, or to older brothers or sisters if you have them. They might’ve been through this stuff and will understand.

If it’s happening in school, think of a teacher you trust. Teachers and counsellors are specially trained in these situations. It’s their job to help.

Also, it’s good for the school to know it’s happening. There might be other people going through it and they need to figure out how to prevent it.

So think about it as helping other people.

Talking to family

It’s understandable you might be worried your parent or guardian will completely explode if you say anything and run down to the school screaming their head off.

We can’t say it won’t happen, but remember they want to help, and they actually might.

They’re also probably more clued in than you imagine, so explain to them if you don’t want them to do that and they might well get it.

They could have suggestions you had never even thought of. Even if you don’t want them to do anything, it lightens the load, and that in itself is pretty good.

In the workplace

If you’re having a hard time with bullying in work, the person to talk to is your Human Resources manager. They deal with this sort of thing all the time.

In the case where there is no Human Resource Manager or they’re not being helpful, talk to your manager or someone senior who can look into what’s happening.

Alternatively, contact your union rep, the Health and Safety Authority or the Equality Tribunal. These organisations give advice on your options and rights. You can also ask them to act on your behalf if you don’t feel comfortable doing it.

Have a look at workplace bullying for more information on your rights and what you can do.

If it’s getting you down

If dealing with bullying is getting you down and affecting your day-to-day life, there are loads of people who can help, listen and support you. 

If you need to talk to someone straight away, see telephone help for a list of helplines, like Samaritans, that run 24 hours a day.

Someone will be able to help.

Tips for getting help

If you’re worried about speaking to someone, take a friend with you. If you don’t feel like you can talk about it out-loud or face-to-face, write it down or put it in an email. If you’d like to talk to someone outside the situation.

Talk to whoever you tell about what they’re planning to do. They might have a responsibility to act if they’re a teacher or counsellor and they’re worried about your safety, so make sure you check with them. They should run all of this by you first. Be clear about what you want and don’t want to happen. 

If you don’t feel as if you’re being taken seriously, or if no action is taken, it doesn’t mean what’s happening is OK. You were right to bring it up. Tell someone else and keep at it until something changes.

Dealing with bullying can be really tough. It affects your self-esteem and your confidence, and can end up affecting your work and your relationships too.

It’s really important to do something about it. If you feel you need a hand dealing with the impact of it, speak to someone like a counsellor to help you work on these feelings.

Working it out yourself

Depending on how bad the bullying is (and as long as you aren’t feeling in danger or physically threatened) you might decide to try to work it out yourself.

Here’s some ideas that might help with this:

Be confident and assertive – People who hassle other people usually set their sights on someone who seems nervous or unsure of themselves because they think they won’t stand up to them.

The old “turn the other cheek” doesn’t really work. Walking away and trying to ignore can still be the reaction that the person bullying wants to happen.

Being confident about who you are can actually be your best defence. Stand firm and look them in the eye.

Let it be known that you don’t think is OK. Even if you don’t feel it, as the not-so-old saying goes, “fake it ’til you make it”.

  • Tell them to give it a rest – don’t be aggressive, just calm and sure of yourself
  • Be assertive – look them in the eye and keep you rbody language firm
  • Turn around and be nice – killing them with kindness can throw them right off track
  • Use humour – it can throw them off.
  • Use positive self-talk – tell yourself you’re a better person than all that
  • Have a mantra – a saying or a statement that you repeat to them, like “whatever” or “well, if that’s what you think”. This can make you feel confident enough to just block them out (could be a line from a song or a film, whatever works)
  • Remember there are people who accept you for you who are. They’re the ones that matter.
  • Use visualisation

This might sound daft and it won’t work for everyone, but it can keep you from getting overwhelmed. Picture yourself as being miles taller than whoever’s hassling you, or imagine them in some ridiculous costume.

This can help you realise they’re only human, and probably not as tough as they make out.

Stay positive – It can be hard to remember your good points when someone is doing their best to put you down. However, try to think of all the things you’re good at and proud of and stuff that makes you laugh.

Some of the world’s brightest, funniest and most talented people get a hard time when they’re young. Remember this will pass, and loads of people get through it and go on to do amazing stuff with their lives.

Safety in numbers – You’re safer in a group, so hang out with other people when you can. If you’re by yourself and worried about being hassled or feel threatened, be aware of places nearby where there’ll be other people.

Moving on

Sometimes no matter how you or other people try to resolve a bullying situation, there might be no real solution other than to move school or change your job. This can seems like a massive deal, but sometimes making a fresh start is actually the simplest way forward.

This isn’t always a possibility and it’s not the first option. When it’s the right thing to do it can actually be the best decision you ever make. You’re not giving up up, just moving on.

Parents can sometimes be resistant to the idea of moving school, but talk to them about it and explain how you feel. That way you can figure out what your options are.

There’s loads of information out there on bullying. Worldwide there are projects and campaigns to try and deal with it, which will show you how common it is. Checking these out can be great ways to get some help yourself.

So many people can feel the same way you do, and know that bullying is a really serious issue we all need to do something about.