Bullying: Fifth of young people in UK have been victims in past year - report

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A fifth of young people in the UK have been bullied in the past 12 months, an annual report has found.

Three out of four people who were bullied said it affected their mental health and nearly half became depressed as a result, according to the study by charity Ditch the Label.

These figures were almost identical to those from last year's survey.

Children's commissioner for England, Anne Longfield, said "more needs to be done" in light of the "worrying" data.

More than 2,000 young people aged between 12 and 20 provided responses for the survey about their experiences of bullying and the impact it has had on their lives in the past year.

It also assessed prejudice-based views including racism, sexism, homophobia, disablism and transphobia in an effort to better understand bullying behaviour.

Ditch the Label is an international charity supporting young people aged 12 to 25 to help tackle the "root issues" around bullying. Its annual survey has become its "flagship" piece of research, chief executive officer Dr Liam Hackett said.

The seventh annual survey found:

  • The most common type of bullying was verbal, with cyberbullying the least common
  • Of those bullied, 33% said that they had suicidal thoughts, while 41% were left feeling anxious
  • Some 62% were bullied by a classmate and 37% by someone at school they did not know
  • Nearly two-thirds (59%) believed attitudes towards their appearance were the likely cause of bullying
  • In the majority of cases, male respondents were more likely to exhibit negative attitudes than females

Ms Longfield said the impact bullying has on children can be "enormous", affecting their confidence, self-esteem and mental health.

"More needs to be done at home and in schools to help those who are the victims of bullying and also, crucially, to prevent children from bullying in the first place," she added.

'No escape'

Some children who were bullied described cyberbullying as a major part of the problem, with one 14-year-old boy adding: "I go to school and get bullied. Go home and online and still get bullied. I can't ever escape it."

Others cited teachers' unhelpful reaction to bullies, with one 15-year-old boy saying his teacher was homophobic: "Whenever anyone in class makes comments, they just laugh and do nothing about it."

The report comes as analysis of NHS figures suggests the health service cancelled 175,000 mental health appointments for children and young people in the past year.

Mental health charity Mind has published data indicating a 25% increase in the number of cancelled or postponed appointments for young people accessing Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services.

It suggests 175,094 appointments were cancelled or postponed by the NHS service between August 2018 and July 2019 compared with 140,327 in the same period the year before.

Mind said the figures were taken from the NHS Digital Mental Health Services Data Set.