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Schools Are Meant To Be Safe Spaces, So How Does Bullying Affect Children?

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School is a space and an environment that is a significant part of the most important years of a person’s life, the stage which holds implications on all dimensions of development. Across all societies of the world, the importance of education and schooling has been realised and is being promoted through all means and to all extents.

Tare Zameen Par
Representative Image.

A school is one of the first exposures a child receives as they step out of the limited and protective environment of their home. This exposure is not only in terms of education, knowledge and information but also peers, other mates, diverse perspectives, views and opinions. Our peers and the friends we make during our school hold immense significance in our lives, not just during the schooling years but in some cases throughout life.

Parents also send their children with the assurance that they will be adequately treated and taken care of. Schools should aim to be that safe space and environment which helps a child flourish and build efficiently in all possibilities.

However, there are different ways this flourishing experience can be compromised, and in turn, can have serious negative implications. One of the ways is the dreaded term “bullying”. Bullying is a dreaded scenario because it is sad to think what makes children indulge in such acts and what kind of a psyche makes them inflict such harm on others.

On the one hand, peers can be our companion; on the other hand, they can be the source of a child’s nightmares. Bullying is broadly defined as a desire to hurt and the execution of a harmful action. It is characterised by repetition and either a physical or a psychological power imbalance (Farrington, 1993, Rigby, 2002, Smith and Brain, 2000, Smith and Sharp, 1994). It may come in the form of verbal abuse, physical aggression or relational victimisation.

The first two forms of bullying have sometimes been called “direct bullying” as they include directly aggressive behaviour. Relational victimisation is the manipulation of peer relationships in order to exclude someone (Wolke, Woods, Bloomfield, & Karstadt, 2000). The last form of bullying can lead to isolation, loneliness and consequently serious negative outcomes, which may not be manifested physically but can be worse than that.

Cross-sectional research on the effects of bullying on psychological health has consistently found that bullied children exhibit poorer emotional adjustment in early to late adolescence, indicating an association but no direct causality (Alikasifoglu et al., 2007, Baldry, 2004). Hence, children who are bullied have a higher risk of depression and anxiety over the following school year (Bond, Carlin, Thomas, Rubin, & Patton, 2001).

online study anxiety
Cyberbullying cases are being reported in schools these days.

Experiencing any type of bullying victimisation corresponds with higher levels of depression and suicide ideation for females and males. These effects can be coupled with lower levels of academic attainment, self-esteem and social functioning (Hawker & Boulton, 2000; Schwartz, Gorman, Nakamoto, & Toblin, 2005). Recent studies also suggest that bullying is related to sleep disturbances.

Moreover, on the other end, a study by Rivers et al. (2005) suggested that observing bullying at school predicted risks to mental health over and above that predicted for those students who were directly involved in bullying behaviour as either a perpetrator or a victim. Observing others was also found to predict higher risk irrespective of whether students were or were not victims themselves.

Additionally, cyberbullying cases are being reported in schools these days, and with the pervasive influence of social media, it is creeping into the lives of children and adolescents. Web series such as 13 Reasons Why have managed to spark a debate on the prevalent bullying of all forms among adolescents and the loss it can lead to.

Therefore, in conclusion, one of the immediate areas to intervene in the arena of school mental health is the detrimental impact of bullying and how not just to lessen but eradicate this practice from the school environments, and instead teach our children to be kind.


  1. Donoghue, C. And Meltzer, L.J.(2018). Sleep it off: Bullying and sleep disturbances in adolescents. Journal of Adolescence,Volume 68, October 2018, Pages 87-93.
  2. Rivers, I., Poteat, V.P., Noret, N., & Ashurst, N. (2009). Observing bullying at school: The mental health implications of witness status. School Psychology Quarterly, 24(4), 211-223.
  3. Rothon, C., Head, J., Kilineberg, E., & Stansfield, S.(2011). Can social support protect bullied adolescents from adverse outcomes? A prospective study on the effects of bullying on the educational achievement and mental health of adolescents at secondary schools in East London. Journal of Adolescence, Volume 34, Issue 3, June 2011, Pages 579-588.
  4. Turner, M.G., Exum, M.L., Brame, R., & Holt, T.J.(2013). Bullying victimization and adolescent mental health: General and typological effects across sex. Journal of Criminal Justice Volume 41, Issue 1, January–February 2013, Pages 53-59.
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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

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The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
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