Bullying – what do do and how to get support

Friday 17 May 2019 is both Pink Shirt Day and International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia, Intersexism & Transphobia (IDAHOBIT). This year the InsideOUT team has travelled all across the country delivering Creating Rainbow Inclusive Schools workshops with the support of the Mental Health Foundation. While there’s some amazing work going on, we know there’s also still a lot of bullying for our rainbow rangatahi, so it’s important that we talk about what bullying is and what we can do about it.

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What is bullying?

Bullying is when a person intentionally causes harm or distress to another person, often repeatedly and tends to involve a power imbalance.

Intent: bullying doesn’t happen by accident. Stepping on someone’s foot by mistake isn’t bullying (but it still hurts and you should probably say sorry!) but intentionally stepping on someone’s foot every time you see them is.

Causing harm or distress: this can include physically hurting a person or scaring them, insulting someone or making them feel bad about themself, excluding or harassing someone, destroying someone’s work or belongings, or forcing someone to do something.

Repetition: bullying usually isn’t a one-off – it happens repeatedly, but just because it’s only happened once, doesn’t mean it’s okay. You don’t have to wait for bullying to become a pattern before you seek help.

Power: there are lots of different forms of power imbalance that can be involved in bullying. It could be social power, popularity or status; physical strength or ability; year level or position within the school; or forms of privilege.


What if I’m being bullied?

Schools have a responsibility to make sure students are safe at school – which means preventing and responding to bullying, so it’s important to let someone know what’s happening. This could be a trusted teacher, a dean, or counsellor. All schools have their own processes for dealing bullying, so finding out what these are can be helpful.

If you feel like the staff member isn’t listening to you, or the issue isn’t being resolved then tell someone else. If the bullying or discrimination is coming from a staff member then you might need to take it to the heads of school or Board of Trustees. Bullying is never okay, and it is never the fault of the person being bullied.


What if nothing’s working?

If going to the school hasn’t helped, or you’re being dismissed, then it might be time to escalate things. Three really important organisations are the Ministry of Education (contact your local office), The Office of the Children’s Commissioner and the New Zealand Human Rights Commision.

You can also reach out to local rainbow organisations or the team here at InsideOUT for support and guidance.


What if I see someone else being bullied?

Being a bystander to bullying can be scary, but there are lots of ways to intervene safely.

  1. Awhi/support the person experiencing bullying
  2. Distract Interrupt the bullying in some way
  3. Call it!
  4. Leave and act If you don’t feel safe to step in and speak up while the bullying is happening
  5. Get some awhi/support and help
    Pink Shirt Day Factsheet #2: How to be an Upstander

 When you’re being bullied, having back-up can make a huge difference! Even if you can’t stop the bullying in the moment, you can provide support and reassurance to the person being bullied and make a stand against bullying.



It’s also really important to reach out for support while this is happening. This could mean connecting with friends or your school’s QSA/Rainbow Diversity Group, seeking support from family and whānau, the school counsellor or local support services.

 National support services include:

Youthline 0800 37 66 33, free text 234 or email talk@youthline.co.nz for young people, and their parents, whānau and friends.

1737Need to talk? Free call or text 1737 any time for support from a trained counsellor.

OUTline – 0800 OUTLINE (0800 688 5463) from 10AM-9PM weekdays, and 6PM-9PM weekends for free phone counselling from rainbow volunteers.


The other important person you can get support from is yourself! Make sure you’re looking after yourself during this difficult time. That might mean checking in with yourself to make sure you’re doing what you need to to stay well, being gentle and caring with yourself, and asking for help if you need it.

Check out the More Than Four “messages to your younger self” compilation, or check out our Out on the Shelves resource to find a good book!




Ideally, we want to prevent bullying before it even happens. The Pink Shirt Day website has student, teacher and workplace toolkits that you can download for free! You can also check out the Ministry of Education guide to Supporting LGBTIQA+ Students, or Bullying Free NZ. InsideOUT also has resources you can download or order.