Bullying and your mental health

Estimated read: 10 minutes 

Bullying can have a big impact on your mental health.  Find out more about what you might be feeling, how you can get support, and ways to help yourself feel better.

Key points: 

  • If you're struggling, it can be hard to take care of yourself. You might not feel like it, but looking after yourself can help you to feel stronger and more able to cope
  • You may need to talk to someone to help you understand how you’re feeling, or you might want someone to give you some practical help. Have a think about this and who would be the best person to speak to
  • You can make an appointment with your GP who can talk through how you’re feeling with you and explore ways in which they can help
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How bullying can affect your mental health

Bullying can have a massive impact on your mental health, both now and in the future. In fact, recent research has shown that if you’re bullied as a child or teenager, you might be twice as likely to use mental health services as an adult. It doesn't matter if you're being bullied at school, at home or online, bullying can mess with your head. But you're not alone, and you deserve support. Everyone is different, and there are different ways that bullying can affect you. 

How you might be feeling  

  • Anxious and worried all the time
  • Depressed, sad, low and tearful
  • That you’re not worth anything, or that nobody likes you
  • Sick more often, or have stomach pains
  • Angry and stressed
  • Helpless and hopeless, like things will never get better
  • Like hurting yourself, or someone else. If you’re having thoughts like this, it’s important to get help straightaway  

The impact of your mental health may mean that you are struggling with day to day tasks such as:  

  • Find it hard to concentrate at school
  • Not want to be around your friends and family as much as you used to
  • Not enjoy things you used to enjoy
  • Have trouble eating, or eat too much for you
  • Throw up after eating
  • Have trouble sleeping, or sleep too much
  • Drink a lot of alcohol, or use drugs
  • Have flashbacks and nightmares

If you need urgent help

If you feel so bad that you want to end your own life, it’s important to get help straightaway. If there’s nobody nearby to talk to, you can call 999 and ask for an ambulance, or go to the nearest A&E.

Taking care of yourself

If you're struggling, it can be hard to take care of yourself. You might not feel like it, but looking after yourself can help you to feel stronger and more able to cope.

Exercise isn't just good for your body, it's good for your brain, too. If you're feeling low, it might be hard to motivate yourself to exercise. You can start gently by taking a quick stroll, or even by doing some YouTube workouts in your room. The NHS has lots of ideas for teens here.

Taking time to relax can help you feel calmer and more able to cope. If you're not sure where to start, why not try these relaxation exercises from Mind? Some people also find mindfulness a great way to combat stress. Learn more about mindfulness.

Get creative Drawing, painting, photography, makeup and more can get you out of your head and give you a sense of achievement.

Five ways to get the conversation started 

Talking about how you’re feeling can be overwhelming or scary, but you don’t have to cope on your own. Here’s 5 ways to get the conversation started.

1. What do you want to happen?

You may need to talk to someone to help you understand how you’re feeling, or you might want someone to give you some practical help. Have a think about this and who would be the best person to speak to.

2. Choose someone you feel safe and comfortable with.

This might be a parent, or another adult you trust, such as another relative, a teacher, or a friend’s parents. If you’re not sure who to reach out to, you can always chat to us on 0808 800 2222 and we can talk it through with you.

3. Think about what you want to say beforehand. 

Would it be helpful to write a few things down? Or maybe you can draw something which might help you understand your feelings a little more. If you think about what you want to say beforehand, then you might feel more confident and prepared. Or maybe you just want to blurt it out, and that’s okay, too. And if you find talking too tough, why not try writing a letter, or sending a WhatsApp, Snapchat or email?

4. Pick the right time and place.

You might not want to start a conversation when someone’s distracted, such as cooking dinner. But sometimes talking to someone when they’re a bit distracted might be helpful if you’re feeling
nervous- for example if you’re watching TV together.

5. Keep trying. 

You deserve help and support- if you weren’t able to have a conversation about how you’re feeling the first time, keep trying. You’ll get there.

Getting support for your mental health

Nobody deserves to be bullied. You may be feeling lonely, ashamed and frightened, but you’re not alone, and there’s no shame in being bullied. It’s important to get support if you’re being bullied. There are lots of people who can help you.

Your doctor

You can make an appointment with your GP who can talk through how you’re feeling with you and explore ways in which they can help. If you’re struggling with self-harm, suicidal thoughts, eating problems, depression or anxiety, they might want you to refer you to someone who specialises in mental health.

It might be tough to find the words to explain how you’re feeling. Check out the DocReady website, which can help you make a checklist of what you want to talk about, and gives some advice on preparing for your appointment.

Will a doctor have to tell my parents or guardians about what I’ve shared with them?

No, what you talk about with the doctor will be between you and the doctor. They may encourage you to speak to an adult you trust, and wouldn’t share anything without your consent. If you’re under 16 and the doctor is very worried that you may seriously harm yourself or someone else, then they may need to tell someone. If you're feeling anxious about it, then do ask the doctor to explain more about what kind of things they might need to share with someone else.

Further resources 

It may help to chat to other parents on our forums to find out how they are dealing with this issue within their family life. You can also talk to us online via our live chat service, email us at askus@familylives.org.uk or call us on our helpline on 0808 800 2222 to speak to trained family support worker. 

This page was updated on September 2021

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