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To mark Anti-Bullying Week, we’ve analysed our Shout dataset to explore the relationship between bullying and mental health.

What our data tells us about young people, bullying and mental health

The anonymised data we collect from usage of the Shout text messaging support service show that bullying is an issue in nearly 1% of all conversations that people over 18 have with Shout Volunteers. This quadruples to 4% when it comes to conversations with children and young people under the age of 18, indicating a stronger link between bullying and mental health concerns for young people.

Indeed, of those who have texted Shout about bullying, the vast majority are under the age of 18: 41% are aged between 14-17 and 28% are aged under 13.

Since the launch of the service, Shout Volunteers have taken around 9,000 conversations with 7,000 children and young people where bullying is an issue. Within these conversations, additional mental health concerns are also largely present alongside bullying. Suicide (33%), depression (31%), anxiety (31%), relationships (30%), self-harm (25%) and loneliness (24%) are the most common issues, followed by concerns with eating or body image (8%), gender or sexual identity (5%) and emotional abuse (4%).

A deep dive into conversations with young people about bullying

A further thematic analysis of 200 conversations with under 18s about bullying reveals that feelings of anger, frustration, shame, fear, confusion, vulnerability and hopelessness often result from being bullied. Others mention how bullying affects their ability to focus and do well at school.

Young people also experience a great sense of isolation, and often identify bullying as a catalyst for low self-esteem and negative body image.

In more than three quarters of conversations, young people are being bullied in school by their schoolmates. In the majority of these cases, bullying occurs on school premises. In 9% of these conversations, the bullying extends beyond school grounds to online.

In 1 in 8 conversations, texters mention being bullied at home by family, such as their parents or siblings, providing details which often describe domestic abuse.

In some conversations, the bullying is historic but continues to impact young people, which highlights the long-lasting effects of bullying. In most of these conversations, the bullying occurs in school and texters remained traumatised long after the bullying stopped. Some texters describe post-traumatic symptoms of panic attacks, flashbacks, nightmares, difficulty sleeping and social anxiety.

Support with bullying

Bullying can take many forms and have a lasting impact on your emotional wellbeing and mental health and leave you feeling alone and isolated.

We have a number of resources to support children and young people with bullying, as well as for support with a range of mental health concerns that our texters experience alongside bullying, such as suicide, depression, anxiety and self-harm.

Many of our partners, including The Diana Award and Place2Be, also provide support for children and young people who are experiencing bullying and advice for parents and carers who want to support a young person who they think or know is being bullied.

Shout 85258 is a free, confidential and anonymous text message support service for anytime you need support. If you’re dealing with bullying and would like to start a conversation with a trained volunteer, text ‘DA’ to 85258.

Shout is silent and won’t show up on your phone bill. If your life is at imminent risk, please call 999 immediately.

“Thank you so much. You were so kind and understanding and non-judgmental. When I first messaged I was shaking and felt so sick. [You] saved me from having a massive panic attack.”

Feedback from a young person who texted Shout for support with bullying