Words are Powerful, Words are Poisonous

All statistics in this article came from the “Ditch the Label” 2016 Annual Bullying Survey: Annual Bullying Survey 2016.

What in the world would drive a person to want to hurt, humiliate and degrade another person so badly that it would make them want to die? A question that should not have an answer…yet according to the 2016 annual bullying survey of the UK, 1.5 million young people aged 12 to 20  — that’s a staggering 50% of young people — had been bullied in that year. Of these, 33% were having suicidal thoughts. Biologically speaking, surely the aim of our lives is survival? So, for humans to be considering ending their own lives, something somewhere has gone catastrophically and unforgivably wrong.

I have written a poem to share my take on the intersection of bullying and mental health issues.

Cruel taunts, heartbreaking visuals

skipping meals, piled bloody tissues

needless mental health issues

*

caused by mindless chatter 

the result? razor related blood spatter

every single night,

crimson eyes, a futile fight 

*

a fight started by bullies

a fight carried on against yourself

sacrifice your own health

lose yourself

*

to find worth,

feeling like you’re alone 

telling yourself you aren’t enough 

because they abuse you

 means you can’t be loved

*

start to listen to them,

start to believe them,

incessantly reflect on what they’ve said

start welcoming them inside your head 

countless teenagers, wishing they were dead 

*

comparing themselves to the sad perfection

that bullies viciously project,

craving a dangerous draining affection 

to find self validation 

*

you’re mentally preparing yourself

to physically tear yourself

because they bring you down

you are their clown 

with your sad smile and sunken eyes

*

their vitriolic words disguising lies

their deceptive laughs, piercing glares

the uncomfortably long, pitiful stares

from those who know, yet do nothing, 

sit idly by, pretend they don’t see you suffering,

*

ignorance is bliss,

another human’s well-being at risk

but they give it a miss

for the sake of self-preservation 

an indifferent, conceited portrayal of reputation 

*

the damp pillow and sleepless nights 

the detached, distant behaviour

the anxiety, depression, reliance on a saviour

*

the torment of a broken record brain

that replays the horrors of what they say 

sickening remarks you can’t escape

weighted, venomous words that feed self hate

manipulative, spiteful actions that seal a fate 

*

embarrassing observations that make you feel shame

permanently judging yourself, breeding self blame

the dull, profuse aching of your heart

throwaway comments that have slashed you in half

vile jokes that have ripped you apart 

*

leaving your exhausted, broken body shaking, 

losing count of the pills you’re taking,

bitten lips quivering, dry mouth smacking,

strained, tired muscles tensed, broken voice cracking,

*

pinching yourself, clawing at your face, the metallic blood taste

depression manifests itself both in the mind and in the physical state,

symptoms that nobody notices or decides to recognise until it’s too late, 

the suffocating hoarseness of a cried out sandpaper throat,

*

thoughts of hanging ropes and slit wrists,

and still sick-minded people make jokes,

you’ve got long sleeved shirts to hide the scars

with all consuming dizziness, sleepless eyes seeing stars

you’re vomiting your stomach out until you feel lightheaded

smashing the scales, punching your tummy, understanding why they said it

*

you’re wondering why it had to be you

convinced that what they say must be true

they tell you to kill yourself,

tell you to just do it,

the world will be better off, there’s nothing more to it

*

self destructive substances in a bloodstream

merciless burning of a gut wrenching scream

nightly crushing calamity of escapist dreams

borne from the toxicity of the poison

that drips from a tongue

the danger in words with the power

to eventually make a person go numb 

*

a person’s blood on your hands, is that really what you find fun?

power to destroy, shatter shining light 

to extinguish ambition, to steal happiness, 

massacre motivation, impair sight,

batter their soul and slow down their heart

the power to make psychological disorders start

the power to drive somebody to self hatred so strong

that they start believing their existence is wrong 

*

sounds of a deafening, yet cathartic, shriek that cannot be silenced,

like an uncontrollable, crashing plane without a pilot,

*

in a society where hatred is key

cheap laughs from ridicule 

regarded as a sweet symphony 

trolling and online cowardice are commonplace,

10 year olds have sleepovers to plan surgery on their face 

*

when you open your mouth you do not know

the shameful insecurities someone holds

you cannot decipher what is going on inside a mind 

the demons a person is battling with, the trauma you might find

what they have been through, what makes them who they are,

what they are going through, how stable they are,

*

this is about changing the way people act and speak

this is about the likes of you and me 

because don’t you see that what we do impacts on others,

we are all influencers 

with the power to change lives and make our mark, 

so why would we do that  by putting out someone’s spark

*

these unnecessary words, they make no sense 

this uncalled for barrage of abuse without relent,

why does anyone feel the need to actively try

to make it difficult for another person to get by

*

life is difficult enough

without another person making it that bit more tough,

so don’t let it be you who steps over that line

who spits venom and thinks it’s banter, that it’s fine

whose malicious words keep somebody awake at night 

*

there is no surprise when a 16 year old girl kills herself 

because bullying hijacks her mental health 

the signs were there but nobody saw them,

people were too busy trying to ignore her,

because they thought she was weird

they decided she wasn’t good enough 

and eventually, she believed them, it made her give up

she didn’t think she was worth saving

without support, without a kind face she caved in

*

how wrong they were,

who were they to decide, what gave them the right

to take another beautiful human’s life

to fracture such a good heart,

to make her die because they made her hate herself,

bullying: the catalyst for so many issues with mental health,

*

bullying: the beginning of a downwards spiral 

people do not take responsibility for their harmful words,

they don’t understand the effect they have, a form of denial

life-long low self esteem and irreparably broken self confidence,

leaving gashes, vulnerability, open wounds and a desperate conscience

*

thawing a person’s mind, pillaging a person’s self love 

all because somebody couldn’t keep their mouth shut 

time cannot heal the scars caused by bullying,

time cannot heal the suicides in the world we are living in 

*

Bullying is one of the shallowest forms of humanity; excuse or not. So much wrong in our world stems from the lack of open-mindedness and kindness that we display to others. In the media age, we should be well aware of just how far-reaching the impact of our words and actions can be. There is never an excuse for continuously trying to make somebody’s life that bit harder. There is nothing to gain from actively tormenting another person for doing nothing other than be themselves. It is sickening that there exists a tolerance for the ridicule, humiliation and disrespect of others.  Whether this is discrimination somebody of a certain sexual orientation, ethnicity, religion, gender or race; or whether it is the vile remarks made about a person’s appearance.

As much as I want to talk about how every person’s individuality is what makes the world colourful, that is not what this is about. This is about actually changing a perspective. Not the perspective of those of you reading this who (hopefully!) know bullying is wrong, but the perspective of the way we look at the issue. We often look at bullying as an isolated topic, as one that is about a person or group of people targeting and undermining another person through physical and / or emotional abuse and harassment. In fact, bullying is so much more. Bullying is the catalyst for lifelong mental health issues…that can sometimes never be shaken.

Anti-bullying should not just be about prevention of bullying, it should be about actively developing compassion for those who have been victimised; which, as it is impossible to tell sometimes, I guess you should just be nice to everyone… You never know what a person is going through, the struggles they have dealt with or the hardships they are facing. Your kind words, your friendly face and genuine smile could be the one thing that brings back their faith in humanity.

It sounds cliché and it sounds far fetched, but kindness really does go a long way. If we think about the impact of bullying and just how much the actions of one person can affect another person in such a negative  way that they make a person want to take their own life, then we can also look on the flip side of this. To be kind to a person — to make a positive impact on a person’s life — can show them that life is worth living. That whatever it is they are going through, they are supported.

Bullying gives rise to crippling emotional disorders both in the short and long term. Bullying changes the way a person views themselves and this, for me, is the worst part. Watching a person question their own value is utterly heartbreaking. Incredible humans lose their sense of self worth because of thoughtless comments made by bullies. Bullying can cause life-long damage to self esteem as well as initiating life-long mental and physical trials, for example, battles with depression, anxiety, eating disorders and substance abuse. As well as potentially leading to physical injury either caused by physical abuse or by self-harm.

Both bullies and those who are bullied are at increased risk of depression, showing how prevalent the link between bullying and mental illness is and why it is crucial that as people we become more aware and sensitive to the troubles that others may be facing.

It has been found that being bullied in childhood puts children at a high risk of experiencing depressive disorders as a young adult. I became fully aware when I was 11 of just how harsh and cruel other children were capable of being. I also noticed that this abuse was often completely unwarranted. Education on the mental health issues caused by bullying, even at a young age, is fundamental to support. At this young age, a lot of the mental abuse is for no other reason than cheap laughs and a lack of understanding of consequence. Studies have shown that psychiatric disorders stemming from bullying can be caused by experiences of children as young as 8, both in bullies and in children who had been bullied. Once again, highlighting the importance of early intervention and education on the subject of bullying and mental health.

We are stuck in a vicious cycle. 24% of those who have been bullied, go on to bully. By not preventing bullying and helping victims as best we can, we are in fact condoning further bullying. As a society we have normalised the ridiculing and degradation of other humans, we have decided that we actually have a say in another person’s life: in what they look like, in the way they behave, in who they are.

We do not get to tell other people how to live their lives, we do not have the right to assign a label to a person and we absolutely do not have the right to tell someone how much they are worth based off of such narrow minded assumptions. Every single person has their reasons, the experiences that have shaped them to make them into the person they are, everybody has an immeasurable worth and value, so the fact that a person thinks it is justifiable to pick on someone at face value because of their own insecurity or their own prejudice and misconceptions is ludicrous.

Who are you to judge another person? In an age where cyberbullying is commonplace, it has become so easy for cowards to sit behind the protection of a screen and say indescribably despicable things that are far harder to  get away with in real life. It has become far too normal to relentlessly target and maliciously bully a person anonymously on different forms of social media. I am ashamed to say that I no longer bat an eyelid when I spot internet trolls bombarding people with hate and vile threats. The same question however continues to present itself, why do people feel this hate is necessary?

Words can be poisonous. Words can be destructive. Words are powerful beyond belief and the drastic impact these words can have on us as sentient beings should never be underestimated.

We each have a voice, we are all capable of using this voice, how we choose to use this voice is up to us, but always bear in mind that words have the power to make or break a life.

If you are being bullied, here is a link to a selection of websites that can help with possible strategies going forward,  I urge you to take a look: Anti-Bullying Alliance

Statistics in this article came from the “Ditch the Label” 2016 Annual Bullying Survey: Annual Bullying Survey 2016

Featured Image: Photo by Dids from Pexels

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