The Dubbo community should say ‘no’ to bullying all year around, headspace youth access and awareness worker Nic Steepe has said.
Friday is the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence, with local schools using the day raise awareness and promote respect.
Bullying was not necessarily getting worse, according to Mr Steepe, but increased awareness meant more people were speaking out and seeking help.
But he said the figures were “haunting”.
“The statistics nationwide are about one in four experience [bullying] face to face, and one in five cyber-bullying,” Mr Steepe said.
“So I think that’s quite haunting if you look at how many students we have in Dubbo and how many would be facing bullying according to those statistics.”
Across Australia, children as young as six contacted Kids Helpline about being bullied in 2016.
The telephone counselling service received more than 3800 contacts from children and young people concerned about bullying, 84 per cent of which related to bullying at school.
Mr Steepe said some of the stories young people told headspace Dubbo were “heart-breaking”.
“There are lots of different issues, obviously depression and anxiety are two of the major ones but they can develop later in life into more significant mental health issues,” he said.
“There’s avoidance of of school because they don’t want to go to a place where they don’t feel safe, low self worth.”
Mr Steepe said it was “horrible” that young people suffered at school, where they should feel safe.
“Some of the stories that we hear coming in are just heart-breaking, the reasons why people get bullied, and … it’s important I think as a community to keep the conversation going after today,” he said.
“Because the more that we talk about it and the more that we stand up as a community to say it’s not okay, then the less likely it is to occur.”
He urged anyone experiencing bullying to seek help.
“The most important thing is to tell someone that you trust, whether that be a teacher, a school counsellor or your parents, because as adults we have a duty of care to do something about it,” Mr Steepe said.
“If you are experiencing changes within your behaviour, not wanting to go to school anymore and being badly affected by the bullying, seek services such as headspace and we can help you work through that.”