Asking for a Friend: Help! I’m being bullied, but my friends and family say I’m just too sensitive

  • Each week, we respond to a question from our readers and give advice and resources they can turn to
  • This week, we help a student who is dealing with a mean person at school – but who isn’t being listened to by those closest to them
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What advice do you have for dealing with bullies? Photo: Shutterstock

Need an answer to a personal question that you’ve never mustered the courage to ask? We’ve been there. Whether it is about school, family issues or social life, share your thoughts with us. If you have a question you’d like answered (about anything at all), please fill out this Google Form. Don’t worry – you will remain anonymous!

Dear Friend,

There is this one person in my class who likes to make fun of everything I do. I don’t think she realises she’s hurting my feelings. I’ve talked to teachers, school counsellors and my mom, but all of them reply with: “she’s just playing with you”, “you should tell the teacher about this”, or even “you’re being too sensitive”. I can’t talk to my friends about this because they’re also friends with the person who hurts my feelings.

I don’t think they understand the state of hurt I’m in. I constantly have nightmares about what she will do next and how no one stands up for me, not even my friends. This is really humiliating for me. I don’t want to be a target any more. What can I do?

Best, Bullied

I feel bad about my body, and my classmates call me names behind my back

Dear Bullied,

Thank you for trusting us enough to tell us about your experience. We can’t imagine how frustrating and disappointing this must be; it’s not right for people to overlook and downplay your hurt. Let’s make it clear: being bullied is not your fault. If you feel hurt, humiliated or disrespected, the people around you should take it seriously.

You say you’ve spoken to your teachers, counsellors and your parents, but that the bully in question might not know she is hurting your feelings. Have you tried talking to her? If you feel safe doing so, maybe you could speak to her (with a teacher or another person you trust present, if you like) about how her actions affect you. Having this discussion privately, in a small setting, could help her better understand the impact of her “jokes”.

Words can often hurt more than physical pain. Photo: Shutterstock

The next time she makes fun of you, you could also try a few of these comeback lines from Stomp Out Bullying, one of the leading anti-bullying organisations for kids and teens in the US. Phrases such as, “Wow, did you think of that all by yourself?” or “This again? It’s so boring. Let me know when you’re done,” could show her that her words don’t work on you, and that she won’t get the reaction she is hoping for. Hopefully, she would then get bored and move on.

We’re so sorry that no one has taken your problem seriously, but we think it’s good that you have been honest about your feelings and have tried seeking help and support – that’s very brave of you. Since you have come this far, maybe you can take it a step further.

No one takes my stress seriously because I’m a good student

Sometimes, people miss out on serious messages in daily conversation or casual chats. We encourage you to put your distressing experience into writing – maybe you could even show your parents this letter. You could mail it or read it in-person to your parents, teacher, or counsellor again. As adults, we hope they wouldn’t miss this clear signal for help.

Furthermore, we are quite concerned about your emotional state, since you have constant nightmares, which is a sign of significant mental distress. Please seek support as soon as possible – you say your parents dismiss the bullying, but do they know about the nightmares? – or seek help from resources like Open Up or 6PM Cyber Youth Support Team, which work to help students in need.

Sincerely, Friend of a Friend

The question was answered by clinical psychologists from the Department of Health under Shall We Talk, a mental health initiative launched with the Advisory Committee on Mental Health.

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