“I have said a prayer to God. Why do I have to live like this? If I do I must kill myself”
Stephen Sheperd (Britain’s first recognized bullycide)

In 2001 the ESRI published the result of the first nationally representative survey of the incidence of workplace bullying in the Republic of Ireland.  Over 5,200 individuals in paid work outside the home participated in the survey.  7% of those surveyed reported that they experienced bullying in the 6 months preceding. 

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Victimisation rates were higher among women than men.  Almost 3% of those at work report that they experienced bullying either daily or several times per week during the reference period.  Further analysis reveals that an organisations culture is the biggest contributory factor to bullying, not the victim’s characteristics or personality

Dr. Mona O’Moores (Trinity College, Dublin)  National survey of Bullying in Irish primary and secondary schools points to  some 31% of Primary Students and 16% of Secondary Students having been bullied at some time.
In a school going population of approximately 870,000, approximately 23% or 200,000 children are at risk of suffering the ill effects of bullying.  For more information visit (www.abc.tcd.ie)
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What is Bullying?
Bullying can be defined as the “persistent, offensive, abusive, intimidating or insulting behaviour, abuse of power or unfair penal sanctions which makes the recipient feel upset, threatened, humiliated or vulnerable, which undermines their self-confidence and which may cause them to suffer stress.” Definition of Bullying by Amicus – MSF Trade Union.

In a corporate environment there are many forms of bullying. Corporate bullying may introduce new policies designed to deny employees their enititlements, or create an environment that coerces employees into greater responsibility and working longer hours.  Organisations may harbour a serial bully, or facilitate pair, gang, vicarious, legal or cyber-bullying. 

Within the school environment bullying takes various forms. It may be physical and include pushing, tripping or hitting.  Verbal bullying may include publicly demeaning another, engaging in persistent gossip and rumour mongering. Non-verbal bullying includes intimidating looks or gestures. Emotional bullying may include isolating an individual and persistently chipping away at their sense of self.  With the event of technology at our fingertips e-bullying has become an aspect of school life. 

Bullying can be particularly hard to tackle as it is often subtle and can be difficult to prove. However, there are  signs when an individual either child or adult is experiencing bullying which may include;

Physiological symptoms:  a compromised immune system and susceptibility to infections and illness; sleeplessness; nightmares and fatigue; Irritable bowel syndrome; blood pressure; sweating; loss of appetite and aches and pains.

Psychological symptoms:  high anxiety; hypersensitivity and a tendency to tears; hyper vigilance;
poor concentration; becoming withdrawn; loss of confidence and self esteem; irritability and feelings of despair;  thoughts of suicide.

Behavioural symptoms: Absenting oneself or avoiding work or school; aggression and self medicating through substance abuse.   When a child is being bullied through extortion they may report money or possessions regularly being lost.

There are many underlying reasons that one might engage in bullying behaviour.  Bullying attracts attention, increases ones sense of superiority and power, or alleviates feelings of inadequacy.  Bullying may also be a behavioural manifestation of a distorted mindset.  For the recipient, bullying is an insidious form of abuse that erodes ones sense of self and sense of purpose and can even lead to suicide. 

A counsellor’s role is to help either the individual who is engaging in bullying behaviours, or the person at the receiving end to look at their patterns of interacting with others and self-beliefs.  A counsellor may help to examine issues around self esteem, assertiveness and self confidence.   Further work may look at client’s redundant beliefs and promote healthier thought patterns.


County Kerry

Deanah McCormack

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