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Bullying in schools is a concerning trend. It almost always leads to behavioural problems, diminished academic performance and even suicide.

“Understanding the impact of bullying on a scholar’s mental health has gained increased importance for teachers, guardians, and parents. This understanding is crucial for the sake of the scholar’s psychological well-being and academic development,” says Nkazimulo Zitha, head of School Achievement at SPARK Schools.

Bullying, in schools or elsewhere, is defined as unwanted aggressive behaviour and usually occurs when there is a power imbalance between people. When it becomes repetitive, it can inflict significant harm upon the victim. 

5 types of bullying:

  • Physical – this is the most common form of bullying. It involves physical actions like pushing, tripping, kicking, hitting, spitting on, or destruction of a child’s property on purpose.
  • Verbal – these bullies almost always operate when adults are not around. They will make fun of their victims, tease them, call them names, insult them, and verbally intimidate them.
  • Cyberbullying – this happens in the digital space, on computers, smartphones, social media, texts, and instant messaging. It is also much harder to catch cyberbullies as they hide behind anonymity.
  • Relational – this bully uses humiliation, lies and exclusion to diminish another person. 
  • Prejudicial – bullies target factors like race, religion, sexual orientation, or social standing. 

The long-term effects of bullying on a child’s mental health must not be underestimated, says Zitha. “Research has shown that being a victim of bullying can lead to longer-term impacts including interpersonal violence, substance use, sexual violence, poor social functioning, and poor performance. Being bullied at a young age can affect someone well past childhood and can cause lifelong psychological damage.”

Read more about what the law says about bullying

Look out for these warning signs of bullying:

  • changes in sleep patterns, 
  • loss of appetite, 
  • frequent tears and mood swings, 
  • unexplained bruises and scratches, 
  • damaged belongings, 
  • coming home hungry, 
  • not wanting to go to school
  • deteriorating academic performance. 

Where to get professional help:

  • Sadag: or 0800 567 567
  • Childline: or 116 on all network (free)