Lame anti-bullying “advice”, that we somehow still use

TW: This advice is inaccurate and horrible, and might bring back some nasty memories for anyone who has experienced the horrors of bullying. 

You might have heard the story of the school in Nebraska that sent it’s students home with the following advice on bullying:


Wow, well done folks. Keep going and you might be shortlisted for the ‘Jerk of the Year’ awards along with US Airlines.

Obviously, this was a mistake. That’s certainly what they’ve told everyone, anyway, and they have since apologized and issued new advice. But let’s face it, anyone who’s been bullied will have heard this lame-ass advice anyway. Despite knowing full well that literally none of the “rules” on that list actually stops bullying, we just carry on with the general ‘sticks and stones’ mantra. WTF, universe?!



This is something that seriously upsets me. Not only was I bullied, but repeatedly I was subjected to this pathetic pseudo-helpful “advice”. In fact once, when I was 13 and pre-self-harm, I went to tell my teacher – my personal tutor, in fact – about being bullied in school for my sexuality (everyone suspected I was gay, that’s a story for another day). He gave me similar advice about not letting them get to me, ignoring them and such. A couple of days later at my parents evening he even had the cheek to tell my father I was “unbulliable”, such was the fuck that man specifically put in charge of my care did not give.

The main problem with this advice is that it represents just that – it reeks of ‘put up and shut up kid, because it’s not our responsibility, and damn it you probably deserve it‘. It’s not dramatic of me to say so – it’s all summed up explicitly in the last three so-called “rules”:

Rule #7: Do not tell on bullies. The number one reason bullies hate their victims, is because the victims tell on them. Telling makes the bully want to retaliate. Tell an adult only when a real injury or crime (theft of something valuable) has occurred. Would we keep our friends if we tattled on them?

Rule #8: Don’t be a sore loser.

Rule #9: Learn to laugh at yourself and not get “hooked” by put-downs. Make a joke out of it or agree with the put-down. For example: “If you think I’m ugly, you should see my sister!”

Loving number 9 – bully your sister, kids, on the off-chance that by ruining the reputation of your sibling and destroying your relationship, you might, just might, stop being bullied. Lovely.

Seriously though, this advice assumes automatically that you have done something to offend the bully, so you totally deserve to be bullied. Maybe you “tattled”, or it’s your sense of humour. Maybe it’s the way you dress, or talk, or walk. Maybe it’s your family. Maybe it’s your gender, or your sexuality. Hey, whatever, kid. You must suffer the consequences of being different. Including, but not limited to, the intense and wide-ranging physical and psychological effects of being bullied.  It just isn’t our concern.

It’s so easy to pass the buck if you pin all the blame on the kids being bullied…

Except we all know the responsibility for bullying lies with the perpetrator, not the victim. Blaming the victims is only going to reinforce this as a viable option in response to whatever shit the bully is going through. Is this really the only plan we’ve got in dealing with bullying – messing up a whole bunch of kids lives because we can’t be bothered to get our hands fucking dirty? It seems so obvious to me that we should try to help the damn people involved, including the bullies.

Before you weep for humanity though, guys, there are two things you have to remember. The first is that there’s people like this guy in the world. The second, is that you can still change these things. Get involved campaigning against bullying, teach your kids or your friend’s kids or whoever about it. Call people up on the stupid advice they’re giving if you overhear this rubbish. Do things.

Don’t let bullying win.



Lame anti-bullying “advice”, that we somehow still use

We need to talk to kids about self-harm

Recently self-harm made national news once again, only this time it was the results of an online survey that was of concern. The poll had found that bullying was the primary cause of self-harm for most of the under-25s surveyed, closely followed by family relationships, pressure to do well at school, emotional abuse and friendships.

This is nothing new to those who have had contact with self-harmers, perhaps, but it was refreshing nonetheless to see the national media focusing on the experiences of those who self-harm and promoting awareness of a growing issue.  Yet it made me reflect on my own experiences of school and self-harm, and raised an important question – why do we not educate young people about self-harm?

I never really understood self-harm and knew so little about it, until I started doing it myself when I was 13 in response to years and years of bullying. I’d never meant to, but it kinda made me feel normal; I felt better able to cope through the day-to-day bullying, and it made me feel like a nicer person because I was calmer. Swiftly I found self-harm become almost an addiction – I had to do it every day, just to face the world – and my friends, teachers, and eventually my family, found out.

What surprised me was that at no point did we have a class talk about mental health and self-harm in school. Not even when students were being taken to A&E for self-harming, or placed in therapy, and frequently came in with scars and marks. The first and only time it was even acknowledged was in a GCSE history lesson, in a causal reference to the sense of euphoria that comes with blood loss. When the teachers discovered someone had been self-harming, their only response was a look of pity or disgust; it’s highly questionable if they had a clue what they were supposed to do.

Alright, I went to a very bad school, so my experiences might not be that representative. Except research by mental health charities such as Rethink Mental Illness seem to agree that not enough is being done to spot emerging mental health problems in young people, or educate young people about issues of mental health in schools. This is pretty striking considering that self-harm appears to be on the rise, and that the earlier problems are spotted and dealt with the greater the chances of recovery for individuals.

In my opinion a greater coordinated effort should be made by media outlets, the Department of Education, and health services to educate the general public about self-harm and wider mental health issues, in a positive, non-judgemental way. Young people shouldn’t have to suffer for so long in silence.

We need to talk to kids about self-harm