PixabaySadTeen2Sometimes it can be very difficult to know for sure if a loved one is being bullied or abused. Often the victim will not share their true feelings out of fear. They may be afraid that no one will believe them or that their abuser will punish them. For children, they may think how they are being treated is normal, so it is important to talk with kids about bullying and what to do if someone is treating them poorly.

Bullying is a major problem in the United States, leading many teens into depression, self-harm, addiction, eating disorders, or even suicide. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death among young people. According to BullyingStatistics.org, 14% of high schoolers have considered suicide. This is why it is so imperative to recognize if a loved one is being bullied and have constant communication with them.

Some of the warning signs are more subtle, while others can be more obvious. Of every successful teen suicide there were at least 100 attempts. Talking about suicidal thoughts should not be taken lightly or looked at as “attention seeking”. Suicidal ideation or suggestions should be treated medically. If a teen says they can’t handle life anymore, or constantly talk about death, this could be a big red flag for bullying.

Some other warning signs of bullying include:

Personality changes

Victims of domestic violence or bullying often display a noticeable personality change. They begin to isolate from friends and family and display more sadness. They may become very tired and unmotivated. Often bullying victims will begin to lose interest in favorite activities and start to miss work or school. These should all be clear signs that something is wrong.

Low self-esteem

Bullying victims will often begin to have very low self-esteem and self-worth. They may suggest they “aren’t worth people’s time”, or “don’t want to be a hassle”. They are afraid to let people give them time or go out of their way to help them. They may insist they aren’t smart enough for school or work. Sometimes teens will become sexual promiscuous in an attempt to gain self-worth. 

Substance abuse

Bullying and addiction have a very significant correlation. Often victims will become depressed and look for external stimuli to give them comfort. Drugs or alcohol can give victims a false happiness or confidence that quickly becomes addictive. Substances can offer a “safe place” for someone who is constantly living in fear and depression. Here are some signs of addiction.


Bullying victims, especially teens, often engage in reckless behavior or self-harm. Cutting is more popular among youth, and can often be found on wrists or thighs. This behavior becomes addicting for victims because it gives them a sense of control and can help “relieve” emotional pain, replacing it with physical pain. Eating disorders are also common among teen girls, like bulimia or anorexia. Rapid weight loss or refusal to eat meals should be a major concern, especially if the person is displaying other signs of bullying or domestic violence.

Here are some ways to help again bullying.

  • Always take someone seriously if they threaten suicide or show signs of suicidal thoughts. Pep talks are not appropriate, but rather medical help from psychiatrists and psychologists.
  • Talk to children about bullying and insist that they can always come to you for help if someone is abusing them or being mean to them.
  • Monitor a teen’s social media outlets. Unlike bullying of the past, a lot of bullying takes place online. Many suicides have been attributed to cyber bullying.
  • If a child complains about bullying, take it very seriously. Talk to school authorities and look for solutions to solve the problem. If school authorities offer little help, take it up with police of attorneys. Many states are putting laws in place to stop bullying, whether it be inside or outside of school.
  • For domestic violence, offer a domestic violence help line. If you know for a fact a person is a victim of domestic violence, contact local authorities.
  • If you suspect a child is a victim of child abuse at home, contact Child Protective Services in your state.

Contributor: Trevor McDonald