The Epidemic of Bullying

No longer reserved for the kiddies on the playground, bullying has soared to astronomical heights. Bullying has become widespread and can now be found in the workplace as well as in the marketplace and social community spaces. The epidemic of bullying in society today isn't just limited to the lower levels of socioeconomic status either. In fact, bullying in the workplace has gotten to be such a problem that an app for mobiles called “The Fairness Toolkit” is being developed to “help tackle workplace bullying and equip employees with expert assistance at the touch of a button.” According to the app’s developers, bullying and sexual harassment in the workplace costs the Australian economy more than $20 billion annually. The website reports more than 9.3 million visits to their site by people around the world seeking help.

And if you thought that victims of bullying might find some reprieve at home, you'd be mistaken. Because of the constant state of being "connected," cyberbullying through social media platforms has been the cause of multiple suicides around the world and is seen in both males and females, young and old. In most cases, by way of life experience, the vast majority of bullied adults are simply more equipped to deal with bullying and seek assistance. Conversely, children and teens are much less likely to know how to find help outside of parents and teachers. 

As of the writing of this post, the Office of Children’s eSafety Commissioner reports a 60% increase in reported cases of cyberbullying within the last year stating, “Our own research shows us one-in-five young Australians has been cyber-bullied over time.”

Note, I said “reported” cases in that last paragraph. Because many victims feel there will be severe reprisal-type consequences from their bullies, many children don’t tell anyone they are being bullied. And then, there are those who do tell an adult but are told to ignore their harassers or turn the other cheek. Make no mistake, the constant barrage of verbal, physical, and cyber bullying children experience today is not the same bullying you grew up with. It is much more violent and profound.

It is not the playground bully stealing lunch money anymore. Instead, modern bullying often falls into a category known as "herd mentality," where when one "cool" kid picks on or harasses an "uncool" kid for whatever reason, and other children who want to be liked by the cool kid will join in on the abusive behaviours toward the uncool kid. Like what happened to a Brisbane boy named Tyrone Unsworth who killed himself last year at age 13, after enduring years of homophobic bullying.

Now, I've generalised those terms into kid-speak, but I think you get the gist. These are the types of cases where often, unflattering photos or videos of an unknowing individual are uploaded to the Internet where the onslaught of cyberbullying from classmates is then infused by harassment from complete strangers from across the globe.

For youngsters trying to find their way in the world, fitting into their social surroundings means everything. To be ostracised is one thing, but to be constantly inundated with abusive and disparaging comments and threats around the clock in addition to physical assaults, day in and day out, is another thing entirely. Young children and teens do not possess the coping mechanisms or resiliency to endure such abuse and willingly pursue the only way they know to put an end the harassment and bullying: suicide.

eye-art-MAIN2b copy.jpg has some shocking statistics about the number of bullying-related suicides in Australia, New Zealand, and the United States. The fact that youngsters who are bullied are nine times more likely to contemplate and attempt suicide is a testament to just how bad things have gotten. Additionally, ABC News reports that suicide numbers for 2016 were higher than they had been in more than a decade and their additional statistics are equally as alarming.

The good news, however, is that even though bullying has become so systemic, it has also been brought into the spotlight and more organisations are setting up programs to help those who are being victimised. The National Centre Against Bullying is just one agency that is working to educate communities about how to identify and resolve bullying issues.

Bullying across all levels of society has gotten out of control, but there is still time to turn the tide back toward a more compassionate and empathetic way of life. If you or someone you know is the victim of bullying, contacting one of the following agencies is the first step to finding relief: