Helping friends beat bullying

A boy separate from a group of other young people who are bullying him

Speaking up can be the hardest thing to do if you’re being bullied, so if you’re worried about a friend, make it as easy as possible for them to tell you. Here’s our advice.

The signs that they’re being bullied

Many people will go to extraordinary lengths to hide the fact that they are being bullied, so it can be difficult to detect. However, there are some signs you can look out for:

  • Physical injuries such as cuts or bruises that cannot be explained;
  • Ripped or damaged clothes;
  • Regular complaints of illness (such as feeling sick or headaches) can be a cover up for simply wanting to avoid certain situations;
  • Mood swings;
  • Anxiety/nervousness;
  • Acting depressed, upset or tearful;
  • Low self esteem and loss of confidence;
  • Acting rude, hostile or defensive;
  • Withdrawing from group interaction, physical contact and avoiding eye contact;
  • A change in eating habits;
  • Alcohol and drug use;
  • Self harming;
  • Frequently losing money and other items;
  • Tired and lacking energy.

Be aware, however, that many of the indicators above are also signs of other emotional problems and do not immediately mean that bullying is the cause.

Approach the issue gently

If you are worried about a friend, the best approach is to gently let them know that you are concerned about their wellbeing. Be sensitive and pick a time when you won’t be interrupted. Listen to what they say and support their wishes. If they are being bullied, remind them that help is available and that having told you is the first step towards getting help.

Face bullies together

  • Identify when and where the bullying is happening and make sure you – or someone else – is accompanying them at these times.
  • Stick up for your friend if you see them being bullied.
  • Encourage them to report the bullying to someone else. If it is in an established setting, such as university or work, you could go with them to get advice from a student counsellor, NUS or someone in the human resources department. If the bullying is taking part in the community, they can report it to the police.
  • Dealing with bullies is one thing, dealing with emotions is another. Keep offering your support, even after the bullying stops – and if they are finding it hard to move forwards, encourage them to seek emotional support from an organisation such as SANE or Samaritans.
  • Our Crisis Messenger provides free, 24/7 crisis support across the UK. If you’re aged 25 or under, you can text THEMIX to 85258
  • You can also contact The Diana Award Crisis Messenger by texting DA to 82582. Trained volunteers will listen to you and help plan the next steps. It’s free, confidential and available 24/7 (UK only).

Next Steps




Updated on 22-Feb-2023