We’ve all seen one of the kids getting beaten up in the playground or that mean girl who body shames one of her classmates. Some of us have been the ones getting beaten up or having our self-confidence destroyed by our peers.

Most of the times, we’d hear that bullying is an inevitable part of growing up and makes you stronger. But it is only now that research shows that the effects of bullying last till adulthood. JAMA Psychiatry talked to 1, 400 individuals at 19 and then at 26. All these people had survived bullying but were at a much higher risk for depression, anxiety, PTSD and some even admitted to having suicidal thoughts in high school.

So many behaviour patterns that are actually aggressive have been accepted because of lack of awareness but it is only now that we’re finally coming to the realization that bullying is very real and can affect a person’s mental space.

We talked to individuals who came forward with their struggle and the stories are a lesson for all institutions to take action before any more psychologically hurt people walk out of their gates:

1. “Tanish, the super arrogant and despicable Tanish. He was in 12th and I in 5th if I remember correctly. He had this daily ritual of slapping me in the bus till I plead him to stop doing it. Everyday, till he graduated, he slapped me for a year without fail. After a point I accepted it as a non changing reality of my life. Always loud and crass, always getting into fights and lack of respect for authority. In retrospect, he was the wrong kind of rebel. Always angry, disappointed, dazed and confused; Tanish became good at hiding his sensitivity. The slapping finally stopped and with each day my resistance increased against the force of his arbitrary need to exercise control over a physically weaker life form. I never resisted, all I asked him was why and that was always answered with another slap.”

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    2. I was in school when this one guy from my class passed a comment on my complexion saying ‘dekh kitna bol rahi hai ye kaali ladki.’ I had tears in my eyes and a ran away.

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    3. “So I was in 8th, and got a bad case of acne all over my face. Just hit puberty. Anyway, was sidelined by my then group of friends, because apparently I wasn’t pretty enough to hang out with them. Not only that, these same people, in 9th (or 10th, don’t remember), would corner me in the bus parking area, and throw insults at me, especially about how I had hair all over my body and all. Specially when there were guys passing. In 8th, I had to change my group of friends because I was anyway being bitched about, because, well, I had acne. Been bullied a bit by boys too, who would call me names, which were laced with sexual innuendo.”

    -21

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    4. “So when I was growing up. Let’s say about 5-11 years of age. I face two different sets of bullies. I was at an all girls catholic convent. When not at school, I was almost always playing football with boys aged 15-17. I was the punniest and shortest kid. And of course, I became their punching bag. Physically beaten up, pushed around, shoved onto walls and one brilliant time, got a massive rock thrown on my back. The physical aspect of it was easier to get over. I turned into a bully myself. Kind of beat up kids as I grew older. But it’s stayed and I’ll always recoil when I see someone raise their hands to just pat me on the back. The ostracisation destroyed me. It instilled an idea that I wasn’t good enough. That I was an outsider. That there were multiple reasons people would dislike me.”

    -anonymous on request

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    5. “This is a story which may not be that grave in the extent of its harm, but it altered my life and the way I perceived myself. I moved to an elite school in Delhi in the 8th grade. Yes, it was a big culture shock. It took me 6 months to make friends and it wasn’t as though in those 6 months I was let alone. I was isolated and made fun of. And what were the reasons? It wasn’t my personality, well how would people know? They didn’t make the effort to talk to me. The reasons really shook my foundations about myself. It was because I was overweight. I used to wear socks which weren’t ankle length. I didn’t wax. I used to have hair which wasn’t styled. My situation was so bad that my mother approached my class teacher and my class teacher responded by saying that I should wax and wear deodorant. And so I did. And it was terrible how by the time I reached 9th grade I made so many friends. I would spend a considerable amount of time dressing up, I lost a lot of weight and I guess this was the magic recipe. Till date I am unable to love myself because I have been told that there are things about me that I cannot love.”

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    6. “For me, the bullying came from my peers and also my teachers. While my peers were making rude memes about my body weight and isolating me, my teachers encouraged that behaviour by passing mean remarks about my social life in front of my whole class. The effect that it had on me was quite devastating. I felt extremely alone, indulged in self-harm and eventually started smoking. To think I could have been a brighter soul had I been in a different school makes me even sadder.”

    -23

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    All names withheld.

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