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What Trump taught us about the hidden reality of student bullying


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It's Anti-Bullying week, and it's a sad fact that pretty much everyone on the known universe has experienced some form of bullying at some point in their lives.

Young Minds, a child and adolescent mental health charity, found that 70% of young people have been bullied at one time, and around one million children are bullied every week. 

In the run up to the US Presidential election, the wife of one of the most famous bullies currently in the spotlight, Donald Trump's wife Melania, spoke up about bullying, saying that "our culture has got too mean and too rough, especially for children and teenagers". 

However there seems to be a very large toupee-wearing elephant in the room at this point, in the form of the US election. Millions tuned in to watch the two candidates who fought for US Presidency hurl abuse and playground tactics at each other, in an environment that resembled a boxing ring, complete with supporters and hecklers alike.

The belittling and criticism remained personal throughout the campaign, as proposed political policies were replaced with manipulation, intimidation and social threats to convince voters that they should rule the playground. 

Donald Trump, a man who represents intolerance, hatred and discrimination with his controversial policies and opinions, won over the population with these tactics. A bully has been put in charge of one of the most powerful nations on the planet, making some of the most important decisions that there are. 

The media is hugely powerful in influencing impressionable young people, and widespread interest in the election teaches children that bullying is a means to popularity, and a necessity in order to succeed in today's society. 

However, it seems that it is a slightly older demographic that we need to be keeping an eye on. Although largely neglected in the media and trivialised amongst peers and parents, students are just as much at risk of bullying behaviour as children, and indeed as the adults who pose as authority figures. Many students who suffer from bullying as children carry their emotional scars on to university, a daunting environment which comes with huge social pressures.

Dr Pauline Rennie-Payton, a psychologist who specialises in bullying and harassment issues, draws attention to this issue, claiming that "just because bullying in universities is not talked about, it doesn't mean it is not happening". 

Often bullying and abuse at university is justified as 'banter'. Students are told to brush it off and to 'grow up'. Stealing toys on the playground turns into stealing partners, abuse disguises itself on social media in the form of indirect tweets and old-fashioned face-to-face confrontation has been transformed into passive aggressive post-it notes. 

This worrying result transcends to the adults that set the example, most notably supposed role models such as the future President of the United States, who the media glorify as an entertainment pawn.

Every day we see adult bullying, which is ignored as we have been taught to accept such abuse as a part of life, and something that is not supposed to affect us now that we are older. Road rage, drunken brawls, workplace bullying and homophobic, racist, sizest and sexist comments both in the virtual and actual worlds are all very real problems, which need to be addressed with the same consideration as childhood bullying.

It is concerning that the bullies who ruled the playground as children are growing up without basic moral values, and take notes from the individuals in the media and on the street who set the bar for this behaviour.

Trump is one of the most well known bullies in the Western world, and his election win sends a frightening message - that bullying can buy you power. 

Of course university is an exciting realm of opportunity and life-changing experiences, people and knowledge, and the majority of individuals look back at their time at university as the best of their lives, and one which they left behind with a heavy heart. However, it must be recognised that some are not as lucky, and cases of student and adult bullying, no matter how small, should not be trivialised. 

If you feel that you have been a victim of student bullying or know someone who may be, please seek help from a student counsellor, a student mentor or the student services facilities at your university. Alternatively, these charities may be able to help you out: 

The Mix :

Young Minds, who offer additional resources for mental health support: 

Bullying UK, who offer more information on university bullying: 

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