How to help a friend who’s experiencing bullying

Is your friend experiencing bullying? Here are some ways you can offer them support.

Finding out your friend is experiencing bullying is never easy. You may feel sad, scared or even angry about what your friend is going through. Even if you feel helpless, remember there are things you can do to help your friend feel better and address the harassment. Although you’re not responsible for making the bullying stop, you can always be there, listen and encourage your friend to get support.

Here are some ways to help a friend who’s experiencing bullying:

  • •    Reach out: check in and ask your friend how they’re feeling and if they need anything. Just being there can show them how much you care. Remind them it’s not their fault and they’re not alone. Tell them there is hope and ways to stop the harassment.
  • •    Stay safe: let your friend know their physical and emotional safety is essential. To do this, you can help them manage their social media, avoid certain people/places and create a safety plan. (If you and your friend need help making a safety plan, you can always contact a Kids Help Phone counsellor.)
  • •    Record it: tell your friend it’s a good idea to keep a record of the bullying (when, where, what happened, etc.). If your friend decides to report it, they’ll have the information available to tell a safe adult. You can offer to help them keep track of the incident(s) together.
  • •    Report it: encourage your friend to report the bullying to a safe adult. Reporting bullying can help end it and protect others. You can offer to go with them for support when they’re ready. Your friend may be upset and not want to tell anyone yet. If you’re worried, you can talk to a parent/caregiver, teacher or other safe adult about what’s happening. They can help you figure out next steps for you and your friend.
  • •    Stick together: try rallying other friends, peers or others to stick together and support your friend. As a group, you can help stop rumours and show your friend they’re not alone. You can try hanging out and doing something fun like trying a new sport or hobby.
  • •    Step in: if you witness the harassment, you can step in and let the person who is bullying know their behaviour is not OK. You can ask your friend who’s experiencing the bullying (and any bystanders) to leave with you and go somewhere else. You can also try speaking up as a team to let the person know you disapprove of their actions, but only if it’s safe to do so.
  • •    Get support: helping a friend with something as serious as bullying can be tough. It’s important to take care of yourself, too. If you and/or your friend need someone to talk to, you can speak with a friend or a parent/caregiver, teacher or other safe adult. You and/or your friend can always call a Kids Help Phone counsellor at 1-800-668-6868.

Even if your friend isn’t ready to reach out for support right away, you’re still helping by being there for them. Remember, helping a friend who’s experiencing bullying can feel overwhelming, so try to be kind to yourself.

If you would like to know more about this topic, feel free to speak or chat with a counsellor.