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Bullying, or victimisation, is common and can affect both children and adults. It damages self-esteem and may lead to long-term mental illness in the worst-case scenario. No one should have to suffer like this, and therefore bullying must be opposed.

What is bullying?

Being bullied means being at a disadvantage and being repeatedly victimised. Bullying is also called victimisation and 60,000 children in Sweden are bullied every year.

Psychological bullying make take place face to face through nasty comments and glances, facial expressions, scornful laughter, spreading rumours, or always excluding one person from the group. Physical bullying may consist of hitting, kicking, shoving or threats of violence. Toilets and changing rooms are often the scene of bullying in schools.

Adults also bully one another. One in ten adults states that they have been bullied in the workplace. Online bullying is a major problem which may take the form of comments, rumours or offensive images that are spread.

What is considered bullying depends entirely on what the victim is experiencing. It is up to each person to judge what feels offensive or is a joke. What the bully claims to be their intention really does not matter.

How does bullying affect the victim’s life?

Bullying affects people to different degrees, but if the violations persist, there is a high risk is that someone’s self-esteem will be seriously harmed. For a victim it’s easy to finally believe that what the bullies say is true and that you are truly worse than other people. This is not true, but it can make someone feel even worse, as well as feeling lonely and ashamed.

Bullying can lead to mental health problems involving anxiety and depression. It can also manifest itself as physical pain in the head or stomach for example. Bullying in the workplace is the cause of many cases of sick leave today, and serious diagnoses such as exhaustion syndrome and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) are common among them.

Can things improve?

Shame, guilt and fear of appearing weak can make it difficult to talk about bullying, but the situation has to change if it is to improve. Sweeping the problems under the rug is no solution and everyone is entitled to enjoy mental well-being and be treated well. It’s good to tell you someone you trust, such as a parent, relative, neighbour, teacher, friend or partner, how you are feeling.

Showing moral courage and intervening when someone else is being bullied is important in order to put an end to bullying in society. It’s better to act once too often than to pretend you didn’t see anything.

Where can I turn?

If you find that a child is being bullied at school, you can contact the staff. The school is required by law to have a plan for dealing with bullying. In the case of bullying at the workplace there is no law, but in March 2016 a new regulation on the organisational and social work environment came into force. This regulation clarifies the employer’s obligations regarding victimisation.

If someone starts to feel worse psychologically or suffers from suicidal thoughts, it’s even more important that you seek external help. You can turn to a health center or psychiatric outpatient clinic.

If someone is the victim of a crime due to the bullying, a police report can be filed. Possible crimes are assault, a hate crime or defamation. Contact the police for advice.