[flickr id=”6168696111″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”true” size=”medium_640″ group=”” align=”none”] I clearly remember a saying when I was younger ‘sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can never hurt you’. But this isn’t strictly true, while sticks and stones can certainly cause you physical harm, the cruel things that people may say to you can cause so much more lasting damage.

Today marks the start of Anti-Bullying Week and the theme this year is ‘Stop and Think – words can hurt’ and focuses on verbal bullying or using words to put others down and hurt them. This kind of bullying can happen to any of us, at any time; directly to us face-to-face or over the phone or through cyberspace via texts, Facebook etc.

People calling you names, teasing you, insulting you, spreading rumours, using derogatory terms to describe you can make you feel upset, angry and distressed. When this continues it can have even greater effect on you and may affect your confidence and self-esteem and in some cases can lead to further difficulties such as self-harming behaviour. A large number of young people using services at Step Forward have been bullied or harassed at some point in their lives. For many people this means that they try to avoid going to school, college, workplace or even leaving the house for fear of more bullying. With the misuse of cyberspace being at home doesn’t mean that you are safe from bullying and abuse.

Although bullying is common it does not make it acceptable. No one should be made to feel bad for being who they are. If you are being bullied then please remember that you are not alone, this is not your fault. Try to talk to someone about what is happening to you, someone here at Step Forward or your family, friends, teachers or colleague, anyone you trust.

We can all work together to build a culture where bullying behaviour is challenged whenever in all its forms. We live in a rich, vibrant and diverse society and we would all benefit if racist, sexist and homophobic and other derogatory language is not tolerated. Where people respect one another, share experiences and difference is celebrated.