'Don't be a bystander to bullying': Joe's message to Northampton's children heading back to school today

Joe Plumb, 19, is asking children going back to school today to not be a bystander to bullying.
Joe Plumb, 19, is asking children going back to school today to not be a bystander to bullying.

A Northampton lad and his national charity are spreading a message to children heading back to school today to "be heard" this year and fight back against bullying.

As Northampton's boys and girls return to class for the new school term, Joe Plumb, founder of the Speak Up Speak Out organisation, wants children to take action and not be a bystander to bullying this academic year.

Joe, 19, who launched his charity when he was 13 and has gone on to work with famous faces like Richard Branson, said: "What we're asking is a special request for young people starting or going back to school.

"If you see bullying, don't just ignore it. Talk to the victim. Talk to a teacher. Show them kindness and support. You never know what that person may be facing outside of school and it might just make a huge difference in that person's life."

A 2017 survey into bullying in the UK says half of young people aged between 12 and 20 have experienced bullying. A third of those who have been bullied said it made them feel depressed and one-in-four turned to self-harm as a coping mechanism.

Joe said: "Young people can't always tell the subtle differences between people, especially with some social disorders. It can lead to people getting the mick taken out of them.

"But the effects are huge. It can lead to low self-esteem. It can lead to self-harming.

"We're seeing a rise in young people taking their own lives.

"Just the clothes they wear and the grades they get and the things they do can lead to them getting treated so badly.

This year, Joe wants to spread the message that being a bystander helps no one, and that simple kindness can make a big difference in a classmate's life.

"I have a form of autism and I was badly beaten up and bullied in school. My best advice I can give to young people facing bullying is to just be yourself. It does get better as you get older. People grow up."

The Stand Up Speak Out charity campaigns to give victims of bullying a voice and to stamp out mental health stigma.