Bullying can seriously affect someone’s physical and mental health. Sustained bullying can cause stress, emotional issues, social problems, physical disorders and in some serious cases, self harm or even death.
The physical and mental impact on our lives due to bullying related health issues can affect our behaviour and relationships at home and work. It can also have an impact on our ability to do our job. Mental health related conditions are amongst the biggest contributors to long term sick leave in the UK with over half a million workers citing stress, depression or anxiety as a factor for their absence in the last year.
Identifying when support is needed is extremely important and having friends and family around is invaluable as initial symptoms of a mental health condition can be easily missed. The body and mind are linked, and someone who is suffering from mental illness may also experience physical symptoms such as irritable bowel syndrome or increased pain, these in themselves may be an early warning sign of mental illness.
When we think about bullying and mental health we think about cause and effect; the cause being the bullying and the effect being mental ill-health occurring as a direct result of the victim’s emotional response to what they have been subjected to. Here we explain mental health in more detail and offer information, support and helpful advice to anyone suffering from mental illness through work or school-related bullying
Stress is one on the biggest contributors to long term sick leave in the UK with over half a million workers citing stress, depression or anxiety as a factor to their absence in the last year. For more information about stress related to bullying at work click here as we address the issue of Work Related Stress and talk you through causes, effect and action you can take to reduce the risk of negative stress.
Work Related Stress
Most of us have heard of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). However, very few of us have heard the term Post-Traumatic Embitterment Disorder (PTED), even though it is a condition recognized in the US and Europe and, importantly, the symptoms of PTED are known to everyone across the UK.
Bullying can seriously affect someone’s physical and mental well-being and there is a minefield of information out there. It can be very difficult to know where to look and what steps you can take to protect yourself. The National Bullying Helpline have put this page together with the help of someone that has suffered with Mental Health issues all her life. She has first hand experience with conditions associated with mental health and is now actively working with the NHS on a volunteer programme to help educate others on the support that is available to people that suffer a mental illness.
When I think about bullying and mental health I think about cause and effect; the cause being the bullying and the effect being mental ill-health occurring as a direct result of the victim’s emotional response to what they have been subjected to. Welcome to the National Bullying Helpline Mental Health pages.
Bullying is insidious and creeps inside you. A one-off event may spark rage, anger, disgust or other sharp reactions and emotions but if it is continuous over time becomes a drip, dripping away at you; your feelings, emotions, self-esteem and confidence. It can make you question yourself and doubt yourself; you may feel there is no way out of the situation and you may not even realise you are being bullied until your feelings and behaviour start to change, or someone else notices a change in you.
We all have resilience to situations; the ability to recover from circumstances, to overcome them and to ‘bounce’ back in our lives, but when we are subjected to persistent negative, boundary related or abusive situations our resilience levels can drop, and we can become mentally unwell as a direct response. We have been unable to cope with this situation over time, and we can become depressed as a direct response.
Speaking from my own experiences others have told me (through words, actions and mocking) that there was something fundamentally wrong with me, that I wasn’t good enough, I wasn’t liked (or even hated) and that I didn’t fit in. These initial reactive feelings of being upset, rejected, hopeless, lonely, confused and unappreciated turned inwards as my confidence was eroded and I started to believe that I was stupid, sad, lost, lonely and worthless which led to depression.
These pages are here to help explain mental health in more detail and offer information, support and helpful advice to anyone suffering from mental illness through work or school-related bullying. I am not a mental health professional and although I have level 2 training in mental health and counselling; I am foremost an expert by experience and write from the heart.
Here we look at some of the topics on mental health and explain in more detail and offer information, support and helpful advice to anyone suffering from mental illness through work or school-related bullying
We all have mental health, and it is defined through our emotional, psychological and social aspects play a part in who we are and how we respond to the world around us. Our mental health affects how we think, feel and act.
The WHO (World Health Organisation) defines mental health as not just being the absence of infirmity or disease. They then go on to say that mental health is: “A state of well-being in which the individual realises his or her own abilities can cope with the normal stresses of life can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to his or her community”.
Research conducted by the Government Department of Health indicates that 1 in 4 of us will experience mental illness at some point in our life. They describe mental health as: "The emotional and spiritual resilience which enables enjoyment of life, the ability to survive pain, disappointment and sadness. It is a positive sense of well-being and an underlying belief in ourselves and others.”
Mental well-being includes aspects such as feeling loved and valued, having a purpose and direction, having basic life needs met (food, clothing and shelter), the ability to be social and included in society, feeling healthy, the ability to identify own needs, feeling satisfied with life and having supportive relationships. Looking through that list, it would be easy to identify examples of when someone may feel the opposite and feel un-valued or socially isolated. For example, an employer may deliberately arrange meetings at a time they know a specific individual can’t attend due to childcare; which is indirect discrimination and could lead to feelings of being bullied and excluded. Or perhaps a child at school starts stealing money from another pupil who would feel victimised and bullied while also being left feeling hungry and scared to tell anyone because of the threat of physical recrimination.
If bullying is not addressed mental illness can result through the repetition of negative experiences emotions, thinking patterns and behaviours. It is essential to understand that by the time mental illness is visible (through outward behaviour), a person will have gone through a sustained period of upset, confusion, internal negative emotions and negative thinking patterns; all of which take time (perhaps months or years) to process, understand and move on from. If something takes a long time to affect someone it stands to reason that it may take some time to recover from.
No-one will continuously feel good and always have positive mental health because it naturally fluctuates with life’s pressures and events. For example, someone may feel a ‘bit down’ or suffer from stress or anxiety around the time of a big work presentation or exam at school. They may feel overwhelmed, be easily upset or suffer from disrupted sleep for a little while, but the event passes with no long-term effects and without the need to seek support outside their usual friends and family. The person has ‘bounced back’ and in these examples had the resilience to recover.
Clinical diagnoses of longer-term mental health issues include; depression, post-natal depression, stress, anxiety, phobias, personality disorder, bipolar, schizophrenia, ADHD, dementia, eating disorders, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and Obsessive Compulsive Disorders. It is essential not only to recognise that mental illness can occur, as a reaction to bullying, in an individual with no history of mental illness. But to also be aware of the implications on an individual with a pre-existing mental health condition as they may have lower resilience and struggle with symptoms sooner or with more severity due to past their past experiences or current symptoms.
Some people are more at risk of developing mental illness through their social, psychological or biological (genetic) factors; or a combination of any of these. It is the degree in which quality of life is affected that defines whether someone should seek help. Identifying when support is needed is extremely important and having friends, family, colleagues, and a good GP are invaluable as initial symptoms can be easily missed.
The body and mind are inextricably linked, and someone who is suffering from mental illness may also experience physical symptoms such as irritable bowel syndrome or increased pain and these in themselves may be an early warning sign of mental illness.
You notice in yourself, or someone else, any of the symptoms mentioned above. You are worrying more than usual or finding it hard to enjoy your life. You are struggling at work or at school. You are having thoughts and feelings that are difficult to cope with and impact your day-to-day life. You are interested to find more about support and treatment or you believe you or someone else cannot maintain their own safety or are a threat to others
It doesn’t matter how many times you ask for help as long as you keep asking. There are a lot of ways to receive support and help through; the NHS, family and friends, charities, schools and colleges, helplines and websites and many more community-based ventures for general and specific needs.
For example, in my local area, we have a ‘well-woman’ centre who offer training courses, drop-in counselling, yoga/Reiki and weekly groups to promote well-being through developing skills, talking therapy, physical/spiritual activities and reducing isolation. Some websites offer online CBT courses and counselling, but you must make sure they are qualified practitioners.
Below is a list of people you can talk to about Mental Health if you need to seek advice or support
Every area has a Community Mental Health Team who provide support in the home or at community NHS centres or hospitals and there is a defined adult and child service as well as inpatient wards provided by your NHS Trust. The Community Mental Health team provide a range of talking therapies with Psychologists either as an individual or a group, support over the phone through ‘duty’ care workers, and an out of hours support line and access to a Psychiatrist.
Depending on your borough you can refer yourself in for therapy assessment through IAPT, or a GP can refer you into a service whilst providing anti-depressants, medication to aid sleep or sleep hygiene advice. Also, the website ‘NHS Choices’ can provide further information about mental health, your diagnosis, medication or types of therapies.
Anti-depressants and Mood stabilisers
Sleeping - anti-anxiety – tranquilizer medication
Vitamin supplements (B12 complex proven to improve depressive symptoms)
Acupuncture & other alternative therapies and relaxation such as yoga or St John’s Wort
Person Centred Therapy
Cognitive Behavioural Therapy
Dialetical Behaviour Therapy
Mentalization Based Therapy
Solution Focused Therapy
Always take advice from your Doctor before taking any medication for a mental illness
Recovery is about a journey of discovery. Inner change can be hard, but we cannot move forward until we take that journey. Thinking back to my years of severe mental ill-health and lack of self-awareness I often wonder what would have helped me? What would have aided my recovery or make it happen sooner?
Now I understand that recovery isn’t a fixed point in time and it isn’t something someone can ‘get’. If only (i used to think) it was like a story that had a beginning, a middle and an end. Poor Cinderella, she was in a sad state of neglect and bullying, but the story developed through a fairy, a pumpkin and a ball to the end where she was whisked away to a magical life, forever happy.…the end.
Well, mental health often doesn’t have a fixed timeline and is less about the main points of the story and more about how the individual can learn and grow their knowledge, skills and understanding. This will then enable them to identify their beliefs, thoughts and feelings so they can ‘move on’ with a more positive outlook, stronger resilience and stronger faith in themselves, their values and their boundaries and limitations.
At the time I was confused, traumatised, having suicidal thoughts and acted in self-harming ways. The conclusion I often come to is that I needed a friend and someone who would hear me and offer me knowledge about mental health and self-care. I believe that knowledge is pivotal and that we cannot seek to move forward until we understand where we are starting from. I’m hoping that the information contained in these pages is a start to that journey of recovery through discovery.
People can be assessed as either ‘high’ or ‘low’ functioning within their diagnostic criteria. For example, I didn’t receive my diagnosis until my mid 30’s because my outward presentation didn’t show my struggles until they got too much. For 95% of my life I had just about managed to ‘keep it in’ and be ‘high’ functioning (clean the house, dress myself, have a job, a marriage etc…) and so it is essential to really listen to what someone is saying to you and to encourage them to open up and talk.
The 5% of my life that was not ‘kept in’ included long times of a lack of self-care and isolation with little sleep, little food and little human connection. We all have times that we would rather forget but it is important to learn from these experiences and although they are painful times they can pave the way to building more resilience in the future.
For example, fruit trees offer very little fruit in the first 5 years because they are putting all their energy into building complex root systems of strength so they can access food and not blow over in a storm; think of it like that. My daily life struggles often lead me to ‘dig deep’ and remember that I am strong and I have all that I need within me to survive.
Feeling happy is just the tip of the iceberg within the realm of mental health. There are many things that people can do to help promote their positive mental well-being and below are some examples;
My name is Rose, and I have survived abuse and bullying throughout my childhood and adult years. I have also been a service user (in receipt of support from the NHS) since the late 1980’s to the present day experiencing the different approaches toward mental health from the NHS over that time as well as receiving judgement and discrimination in many instances throughout my life in various settings.
I have a personality disorder, dissociative disorder and an eating disorder alongside physical issues including kyphoscoliosis, lordosis, spinal rod insertion and an acquired brain injury; however, I also have a husband, two children a crazy cat, called Oliver, plus a generally positive and sunny outlook! The type of personality disorder I have been diagnosed with was (until recent years) a diagnosis of exclusion, and there was very little help and support other than copious amounts of medication. So I feel that in the past the very people who were supposed to help me, rejected me which reinforced my childhood feelings resulting in many hospital admissions, being sectioned and at one point being ‘inside’ for six months whilst being offered ECT (electric shock treatment) which I was thankfully talked out of by my loving husband.
Since my ‘dark’ days (as I call them), the NHS has included my diagnosis and offered ground-breaking and recently studied therapies which help the lives of many and helped me to understand who I am and that’s it’s OK to talk. Yes, it’s OK to talk, and it’s OK to talk about mental health. I am no longer afraid, and I no longer reject myself; I accept myself and with that comes freedom from the prison cell I had unknowingly put myself in for so many years.
As you can probably tell, I am passionate about breaking down the prejudice, discrimination and ignorance that mental health symptoms and diagnoses face through raising positive public and professional opinion of mental health, and I have been encouraged by the many campaigns and brave voices speaking publicly in recent years. I am excited and encouraged by this opportunity to write about mental health, however, have identified that it brings its own challenges as my inner voices of condemnation start telling me I cannot do this or that no-one will like what I am saying. However, I will exercise self-care and challenge negative thinking to fulfil my aim of delivering information that is helpful and encouraging to others.
I believe in the compliments and complaints people make in response to the care they have received and have seen these comments change the NHS from within, providing a higher standard of care going forward. Our voices need to be heard, and while I feel we have come a long way since the old days of institutions, there is still a way to go, and I am hopeful for a future where true equality exists between physical and mental illness, and a complete holistic approach is adopted in all areas of healthcare.
Currently, I am working within mental health on an NHS volunteer programme in local boardroom settings educating professionals, and raising awareness, about personality disorder and at an area level as part of a steering group looking to ensure the service user’s voice is heard in the writing of new policies and pathways. I have written a course to be delivered on local wards around self-esteem and actualisation, am involved in other ventures and am an avid writer of poetry over the years chronicling my feelings about and experiences of mental illness. I am KUF trained and have completed my level 2 in Mental Health and Counselling.