Dealing with teasing and bullying after a transplant

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Teen boy sitting in bedroom looking distressed


Teasing and bullying are similar in many ways: they both usually end with one person feeling bad about themselves. Everyone is teased at some point in their lives. While it is an unpleasant experience, getting teased a bit is usually manageable. But lots of teasing, and any kind of bullying, can cause a lot of damage.


The biggest difference between teasing and bullying is that bullying involves some kind of intimidation. For someone at the receiving end, bullying results in:

  • lower self-esteem
  • isolation.

When someone says mean things to you, and when they threaten you or push you around (physically or verbally), you can start to wonder why this is happening to you. You might even start to think that the bully’s mean comments are true and that you somehow deserve it.

Bullying risks isolating you because you might start avoiding places and situations where you might see the bully. That protects you from the bully in the short-term, but it also means you have less chance to meet and get on well with other people.

Loss of self-esteem and withdrawal from other people are serious problems. If the bullying continues, you can start to feel very depressed. This can lead to a vicious cycle of feeling bad about yourself, avoiding people, feeling worse about yourself, avoiding more people and so on.

Why people may not speak up if they are being bullied

The big question if you’re being bullied is, “What can I do?” There are several possible reasons why most teenagers are reluctant to do anything.

  • They might feel ashamed that they are the victim of a bully.
  • They might worry that the person they tell won’t understand.
  • They might worry that the person they tell either won't be able to help them or will do something that will make things worse.
  • They might not want to be considered “a rat” or a snitch.

But telling someone about a serious problem so they can help you fix it is called reporting, not “ratting”.

How to respond to bullying in front of others

We’ve learned a lot about bullying from many research studies. For example, we know that, sometimes, a bully will stop if someone else steps in when they start to act up. If you’re in a potential bullying situation in front of other people, there’s a good chance that a bully will back down if anyone speaks up when they start being mean to you.

Lots of people might avoid speaking up against a bully, though, because they’re afraid that the bully will start to pick on them. But this actually happens quite rarely: usually if one person shows leadership and speaks up, other people will follow their lead (few people like to see someone getting bullied). When a bully knows they are outnumbered, they will usually back down.

So if you have friends and you can be with them a lot of the time, talk with them and agree in advance that each of you will speak up to help the others if any bullying starts. This can be very effective if the bullying is happening in front of other people.

How to respond to bullying when you’re alone or online

What if the bullying is happening when you’re alone or online (cyber bullying)? Or what if you don’t have a couple of friends you can count on to speak up if you’re being bullied? Then it’s important to know another fact from research on bullying: it is a big problem that cannot be fixed by one person.

If a bullying problem is serious, it will take serious changes to make it stop. As a teenager, you don’t always have access to what it takes to make these changes on your own.

If you’re being bullied and you want it to stop, remind yourself that you don’t deserve to be treated badly and that you need to get someone to help you. Then go to someone you trust and tell them what’s happening.

Once you’ve told them and they support you, figure out together who else you can talk to about this problem. If the first person you tell isn’t helpful, go to someone else and tell them. Basically, you’re following the steps we use to solve any major problem:

  • consult with others
  • recruit help
  • come up with a plan
  • follow through with the plan
  • evaluate (see how things are going)
  • go back through the steps again if the problem isn’t solved (in this case, if the bullying hasn’t stopped).

How to reach out to others for help

The main thing to remember through all of this is that you are not alone. If you don’t tell anyone what’s going on, then you will feel alone and you will likely really struggle, so please tell someone you trust.

Most high schools have some kind of plan in place to address bullying at school. You can also call your local police and ask what actions they would recommend. Again, if the first person you talk to isn’t supportive or helpful, talk to someone else. Keep asking for help!

Bullying isn’t easy to stop. It can take lots of people, time and effort to end it. Research also shows that the sooner bullying is addressed, the easier it is to stop. So even if you’re tempted to wait it out, please seriously consider involving other people to help fix the problem before it goes on too long.​​

Last updated: November 30th 2017