It is not a hidden fact that the prevalence of bullying has only been increasing multifold over the past decade. What is more important to recognize is that bullying is not restricted to physical or verbal aggression, but involves any act of intentional harm to the other individual, which could be in the form of verbal harassment, methods of coercion, manipulation, teasing, gossiping, or even singling out or isolating a single person. Therefore, such a phenomenon can be commonly witnessed not only in the classrooms, but in colleges, playgrounds, homes, in the cyber world, or workplace as well. In fact, bullying has always been an area of concern, especially during a child’s growing years, as research evidence is suggestive of significantly adverse impacts of bullying on the child’s personal, social, emotional as well as interpersonal functioning.

Fortis Bully to Buddy Initiative

In alignment with such a backdrop, the Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences at Fortis Healthcare has initiated a program to reach out to school children with a rationale to equip them to deal with the challenges posed by bullying within their own schools.

Approach: Such an initiative serves as a means to reach out to a large number of students as well as teachers, not just educating them about bullying, but empowering them with the ability to identify and recognize such incidents, and be aware of the next steps involved in dealing with the same. The module aims to help the school establish mechanisms to prevent bullying in schools by establishing an anti-bullying squad which further takes the programme forward with other students in the school to build sustainable change and awareness.

Anti-Bullying Squad: Using an approach aimed at imparting life skills through the role of a peer moderator, the “Bully to Buddy” program is an initiative which focuses on training an anti-bullying squad consisting of a team of students as well as teachers, who subsequently conduct an activity based experiential learning session with their own peers, finally concluded with a one hour booster session. Through this initiative, both children and teachers learn and reflect on bullying behavior, its causes, consequences, and it’s maintaining factors including the impact of bystanders.

Our Experience

As we have been conducting such sessions not just in schools within the Delhi-NCR but beyond as well, we have received an overwhelming response from both teachers as well as students. The program has been successful as not only do the children feel equipped with the knowledge about bullying, and feel capable of identifying such incidents correctly within their schools, but further they are also empowered with strategies on helping their friends and peers to deal with such a menace effectively.

Awareness and Education: The far-reaching impact of the program can be clearly reflected in the letters that the children wrote to their bullies as an activity within the “Bully to Buddy” program. Another significant impact of such an initiative could be reflected in the children’s understanding of what bullying really is, as until they are correctly able to identify incidents, any efforts towards preventing or dealing with the challenges associated with bullying would be futile.

Empowering Change: Further, the anti-bullying squad is also educated about the various factors which could be attributed for such a bullying incident, so that they can understand why bullying occurs in the first place. In addition, the role of the bystander in such a scenario is undeniable, and this initiative has enabled a transformation of the students’ attitude and behaviour when they witness bullying. As the bullying squad is established, the witnessing students now know whom to approach, and would not be passively accepting or instigating the perpetrator. Finally, the program has been instrumental in educating both children as well as teachers about the adverse impact of bullying within various spheres of life, including health, academics, social functioning, behaviour as well as on one’s self.

Way Forward – The Bigger Picture

Despite an increasing prevalence of bullying and its significant consequences, there is still an under reporting of such incidents today. This is mainly due to a lack of awareness and information regarding the identification an intervention for bullying. While it is necessary to equip all individuals with the necessary assertiveness skills to be able to know what to do in the moment and to learn how to stand up to the bully, it is also important to develop a multi component model to prevent such tendencies, especially in schools as it is the young children who are most vulnerable.

The utmost need for such “Bully to Buddy” programs to be conducted extensively cannot be emphasized enough, as it is not just the children but the teachers, the parents, and the community at large which needs to be aware of the nature, consequences and skills required to deal effectively with bullying. There is also a strong need to create and implement school wide anti-bullying rules and policies, which helps the children know the consequences of such actions.