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How can counselling help survivors of bullying?

Bullying derails humans. Humans don't cope with powerlessness and lack of perceived control, long term fear and anxiety or feeling unsafe. Naturally bullying creates these scenarios and therefore has a huge impact on us as humans, whatever our age or situation.


Read on to find out some statistics and to learn specifically how counselling can help those who are experiencing bullying to minimise some of its devastating long term impact.


A firece hyena breathing down a worker's neck representing bullying at work.
Work place bully

This is what AI researched and found as the most common categories of bullying, in terms of incidence/prevalence (UK in 2023). Data is difficult due to different levels of reporting but this quick data analysis gives somewhat an indication of the incidence of different types of bullying, as a proportion of the 100% reported numbers.

- Workplace bullying: 25%

- School bullying: 26%

- Domestic/family violence: 19%

- Coercive control: 15%

- Discriminatory bullying: 9%

- Other types: 6%


Bullying in the workplace

In the UK, workplace bullying is unfortunately all too common. 25% of employees in the past 5 years alone, have experienced bullying, according to a study by the Trade Union Congress (TUC) [1]. Research from the University of Manchester [2] has highlighted the profound impact of workplace bullying on health and relationships. Employees who experience bullying are more likely to suffer from stress, anxiety, and depression, which can have long-lasting consequences on their physical and mental well-being. Workplace bullying can strain personal relationships, leading to feelings of isolation and withdrawal from social activities.


Chronic exposure to elevated cortisol levels can of course contribute to a range of health problems, including hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and impaired immune function. Persistent feelings of anxiety and fear resulting from workplace bullying can exacerbate existing mental health conditions or lead to the development of new ones, including experiencing significant symptoms of trauma. Trauma is often resultant and correlated to powerlessness and a lack of escape routes. Of course many of us simply can't walk away from our employers and we need references and to pay mortgages or rent.


Bullying in UK schools

According to a report by the Department for Education in 2021, around 17% of students aged 10-15 reported being bullied at school, at least once a month. A 2019 study by the Anti-Bullying Alliance found that 24% of young people had been cyberbullied. Stonewall's School Report 2017 indicated that nearly half of LGBTQ+ students had been bullied for being LGBTQ+. The NSPCC reported that 31% of children and young people who were bullied said it was because of their race or nationality. Only about 40% of bullied students tell a teacher or another adult in the school (Dfe). These figures are shocking and reflect how unsafe many young people must feel.


The Mental Health Foundation reports that children who experience bullying are at greater risk of developing mental health issues such as depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts. About 20% of young people who had experienced bullying, report a long-term impact on their mental health.


Domestic bullying

Domestic bullying, encompasses behaviours such as emotional abuse, physical abuse, and coercive control among family members. The NSPCC reports that 1 in 5 children in the UK have experienced some form of severe maltreatment, which includes physical, emotional, and sexual abuse as well as neglect. A study published in the journal "Child Abuse & Neglect" in 2017 found that up to 50% of children in the UK reported being bullied by a sibling at least once, with 12% experiencing it frequently.


According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) for the year ending March 2021, an estimated 7.3% of adults aged 18 to 74 experienced domestic abuse before the age of 16, indicating exposure to abusive environments during childhood. Government data from the Department for Education shows that as of 2021, over 50,000 children in England were subject to child protection plans.


According to the Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW) for the year ending March 2021, an estimated 5.5% of adults aged 16 to 74 years (2.3 million people) experienced domestic abuse in the last year. This includes 7.3% of women (1.6 million) and 3.6% of men (757,000). The same survey reports that approximately 25% of women and 15% of men aged 16 to 74 have experienced some form of domestic abuse since the age of 16 .


In the year ending March 2020, 112 domestic homicides were recorded, with the majority of victims being women.



How does counselling help to work with those who are or who have experienced bullying?

Counselling can play a crucial role in helping individuals who are suffering from bullying. It offers a supportive environment where victims can process their experiences, develop coping strategies, and rebuild their confidence. Processing and talking through the experience, in a place where you will find compassion and empathy, is just the start of a journey out of, or healing from, a toxic situation.


Here are several ways working with me or seeing a counsellor with experience of working to support people experiencing bullying, can help:


Safe Space

Counselling provides a safe and confidential space for you to talk about your feelings and experiences without fear of judgment. This can help you to feel understood and less isolated and to have a calm gap for your nervous system to regulate.


Coping Strategies

I can teach stress management techniques, such as mindfulness and relaxation exercises, to help you to manage anxiety and stress related to bullying. This helps minimise the long term impact on your health, sleep and wellbeing as cortisol and anxiety can be better managed.


Problem-Solving Skills

I can help you to consider all your options, objectively and weigh risk and consequences, so you can be informed and think how you can navigate power imbalances safely.


Building Self-Esteem and Resilience

We can work together to rebuild your self-esteem, which is often damaged by bullying. We can look at your strengths and the behaviours of those who have bullied you and why they might behave that way, helping you to give the problem back to the perpetrator.


Resilience Building

Counselling can help you to build resilience, enabling you to recover more quickly from bullying experiences and cope better in the future when you experience life's challenges.


Addressing Mental Health Issues

Bullying can lead to mental health issues such as depression and anxiety. Counselling provides therapeutic interventions to address these conditions. For those who have experienced severe bullying, trauma therapy can help in processing and overcoming traumatic experiences.


Empowerment and Advocacy

Counselling can empower those experiencing bullying, by helping them understand their rights and encouraging them to stand up for themselves in safe and appropriate ways. For example, counselling can improve communication and conflict resolution skills, making it easier to express your feelings and seek help. It can also help you plan your future, which may well involve a lot of change. Having someone walk with you through this is comforting and supportive.


As you can see, there are many ways seeing a counsellor can help, if you have experienced bullying in the past and are aware of its negative legacy, or if you are currently feeling bullied. It's like having a regular check in time just for you, helping you recover and thrive, no matter how long ago your experiences were. Whatever your age or situation, working with a counsellor can really help.


Please get in touch via the contact page if you feel I could help.


A few more statistics and references

Worst places to work for bullying:

Healthcare Sector: Approximately 30% of healthcare professionals report experiencing workplace bullying [1].

Education Sector: Around 25% of teachers and educational staff have experienced workplace bullying [2].

Hospitality Industry: An estimated 20-25% of hospitality workers report being bullied at work [3].

Retail Sector: Approximately 18% of retail employees have experienced workplace bullying [4].

Public Services: Around 22% of public sector workers have reported being bullied in the workplace [5].

Corporate Sector: Studies suggest that 20-25% of employees in corporate environments experience workplace bullying [6].


Please note that these percentages are approximate and may vary depending on the specific study or survey methodology. Additionally, bullying can occur in any sector or industry. These figures represent general trends observed in the UK.


References/Sources

Trade Union Congress (TUC), "Nearly a quarter of UK workers have been bullied in last five years, TUC poll finds," 2019.

University of Manchester, "The effects of workplace bullying on psychological health," 2020.

Royal College of Nursing (RCN), "Workplace bullying in the NHS: Prevalence, impact and role of managers," 2018.

National Education Union (NEU), "Workload, pay and job satisfaction in the education sector," 2020.

Unite the Union, "The truth behind the hospitality industry: Workers speak out," 2019.

USDAW, "Bullying in retail: The experiences of USDAW members," 2017.

Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD), "Employee Outlook: Focus on bullying and harassment," 2019.

Advisory, Conciliation and Arbitration Service (ACAS), "Bullying and harassment at work: A guide for managers and employers," 2019.

Department for Education. (2021). "Bullying in Schools." gov.uk.

Anti-Bullying Alliance. (2019). "Cyberbullying and Online Bullying." anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk.

"Bullying and Mental Health." mentalhealth.org.uk.

Stonewall. (2017). "School Report 2017." stonewall.org.uk.

NSPCC. "Racial Bullying." nspcc.org.uk.

NSPCC. "Child Abuse Statistics." nspcc.org.uk.

Wolke, D., & Samara, M. (2017). "Sibling Bullying in the UK." Child Abuse & Neglect, 67, 148-158. sciencedirect.com.

Office for National Statistics. (2021). "Domestic Abuse: Findings from the Crime Survey for England and Wales: Year Ending March 2021." ons.gov.uk.

Refuge. "National Domestic Abuse Helpline Data." nationaldahelpline.org.uk.

​Crime Survey for England and Wales (CSEW): Office for National Statistics. (2021). ONS "Domestic abuse prevalence and trends, England and Wales: year ending March 2021." ons.gov.uk.

Office for National Statistics (ONS): "Homicide in England and Wales: year ending March 2020." ons.gov.uk.

Refuge: "Refuge Annual Report 2021." refuge.org.uk.

"SafeLives Impact Report 2020-2021." safelives.org.uk.

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