The Merriam Webster dictionary defines bullying as the abuse and mistreatment of someone vulnerable by one who is stronger and more powerful. The root cause and repercussion, however, transcend beyond a few-worded definition.
While bullying has first been regarded as a simple banter between children in school environment, confessions from victims of such act and news about young people committing suicide due to bullying have forced not only school officials but also authorities around the globe to look at the issue.
According to a study by The Youth Ambassadors For Kids Club, 77 percent of students are bullied mentally, verbally and physically. The Philippines is not an exemption.
“Over here, with the study in 2016, bullying actually increased about 71 percent already, and that’s a remarkable number considering that those that are bullied are the youth and in the school setup,” Cheyenne dela Fuente, expert in Child Behavior and Psychology told The Manila Times during the launch of an anti-bullying campaign.
Moreover, dela Fuente noted that bullying is prevalent among teenagers mainly because of peer pressure, “That’s the age when peer pressure comes in; teenagers are trying to belong and if they don’t, they are out, they will be excluded from what others are doing.”
Before anyone can insinuate that bullying is not as big as it is made up to be, dela Fuente warned that bullying is a silent enemy.
“It is quiet—you don’t see it, there’s no face. Anybody can bully someone else and the sad thing is, usually the ones bullied don’t speak up,” the expert noted.
Still according to dela Fuente, bullying can take part in many forms with the most common ones including: cyber bullying, which has become very rampant due to the prevalence of social media and the Internet; social bullying which is excluding people from any event; physical bullying, which involves hitting other people; and verbal abuse.
And with these acts, bullying has been proven to take a toll on its victims.
“You have anywhere from just feeling isolated to the more extreme cases of suicide which at the moment is increasing drastically. So we really need to put a stop to it,” the holder of a master’s degree in Psychology shared.
United for a cause
Heeding this distress call is local clothing brand Penshoppe that came up with its anti-bullying campaign, “I am different.”
“When we did our research, we found out that it is when you are perceived different, that’s when people start bullying you,” Penshoppe brand director Jeff Bascon told The Manila Times during the launch of the campaign in Bonifacio Global City.
Asked why the brand has embarked on this advocacy, Bascon noted that it’s one of the most relevant issues for the youth, their primary market.
Adding to their conviction of the importance of the campaign, Bascon and his team found out that there is no specific foundation in the country purely focused on anti-bullying.
As such, the clothing company partners with Teach for the Philippines.
“That’s because we feel that one of the best ways to reach the youth is through education. Teach for the Philippines will help us come up with an anti-bullying education program that will be engrained to the programs of teachers here in the Philippines,” Bascon explained.
Funding this campaign are the shirts that bear the messages “I am different” and “Different is Good.” A significant portion of the shirt sales will go to the brand’s project with Teach for the Philippines.
The company has also tapped the biggest names not only in the local but also in the international fashion scene to raise further awareness in this campaign.
Bella Hadid (with 15. 3 million followers on Instagram alone), Cameron Dallas (20.5 million), Lucky Blue Smith (3.3 million), Kaia Gerber (2.2 million) as well as Asian stars Sandara Park (6.2 million) and Mario Maurer (5.8 million) have all agreed to lend their star power and social media influence.
“What’s also nice here is that we are able to easily enjoin our international ambassadors. In a heartbeat, they said yes,” Bascon proudly noted.
Local ambassadors and celebrities like Jimmy Alapag, Ronnie Alonte and Loisa Andalio have also joined the campaign by showing that they too – deemed almost perfect by their adoring followers – are different in their own definition.
“Hopefully, with this campaign and the awareness that this company and these celebrities are putting forward, people will recognize that it is a problem and that bullied people would actually stand up and say that enough is enough,” dela Fuente noted, commending the campaign.
How to say no
Dela Fuente shared tips on what to do when one experiences bullying.
“Number one, speak up. It doesn’t matter which adult or which other person you will talk to, but say something about it to someone else. Two, acknowledge that you are different and it’s fine,” he enumerated.
“Three, walk away. Don’t retaliate because if you do, you will aggravate the situation, you will empower the bully. You may send out the wrong signal that, ‘Do it to me again because I am paying notice to your bullying tactics.’ So just don’t acknowledge it,” he continued.
“Finally, celebrate your uniqueness. Celebrate your being different because you are special that way,” the psychologist ended.