Bullying by the crowd – what we can learn from the Adam Goodes experience

The recent media attention related to Adam Goodes has really highlighted to me how hard it is to address bullying when it is undertaken by a large group of people and directed towards an individual. Adam Goodes has been consistently and increasingly booed over the last 18 months by sections of the AFL public, and it’s a shame that this type of crowd bullying behaviour has not been addressed earlier. Regardless of whether you believe this crowd behaviour is racially motivated or not, there is no doubt in my mind that this is a case of bullying. Bullying is repeated verbal, physical, social or psychological behaviour that is harmful and involves the misuse of power by an individual or group towards one or more persons. This has certainly been the case in relation to the booing of Adam Goodes.

Unfortunately this type of crowd bullying behaviour can sometimes happen in school environments whereby a student is targeted by a group or groups on the basis of who they are. This can be very difficult for an individual to manage – as group behaviour is heavily influenced by the loss of responsibility of the individual in the group and can increase in intensity dependant on the size of the group. This is also very damaging psychologically for the individual as it is not just one or two students doing the bullying, but a large group, and can result in: Loss of self-esteem, Anxiety, Depression, and in some cases self-harm or suicide.

This can be really overwhelming for both the student and also for their family. Parents are often unaware of these difficulties, however, you may see changes in behaviour such as social withdrawal, mood changes, altered sleeping or eating habits and school refusal, to name but a few.

In the case of Adam Goodes there are two things that I believe have helped him to return to play AFL again:

  • The AFL’s involvement by condemning the behaviour and asking crowds to stop the booing
  • Bystanders, namely AFL players and numerous identities publicly supporting him

So if your child or adolescent is experiencing bullying or being targeted by a group, it is really important to:

  • Support your child emotionally and encourage access to support
  • Be informed of school policies regarding Bullying and Harassment and if necessary use the schools structures to address the issue
  • Use bystanders such as friends and peers to support your child
  • Seek professional support or advice

If you suspect that your child or adolescent is experiencing bullying or harassment, Attuned Psychology can offer support with interventions specifically designed to assist in the development of skills, strategies, as well as techniques, to manage distressing emotion and build resiliency.

John Pertl, Psychologist

In my next blog I will talk about School Refusal.

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