School bullying: “Friendship can be a great ally to get through adolescence”

Says child psychiatrist Mar Álvarez-Segura, author of ‘Unpopular’, a novel that leaves a strong message for so many adolescents who suffer from this tragedy around the world

Specialist in violence, Mar Álvarez-Segura, has just published the English version of Unpopular, a book that addresses the imperious need of adolescents to belong and the pressure or violence they can exert on their peers in class.

“Unpopular is a short novel about those who nobody talks about, those who go unnoticed in a class, and that’s why they get bullied, so much until they are silenced”, says the author.

Friendship, the best antidote to bullying

In her novel, Marísima – Dr. Álvarez-Segura’s pseudonym – deals with topics such as sexual abuse among peers, the impact of social networks, cultural diversity, hypocrisy and contempt, but above all she uncovers friendship as the most powerful tool against isolation and injustice.

“It is a book that not only talks about bullying, but I also wanted to show how friendship can be a great ally to get through adolescence in the face of the most adverse circumstances”, reflects the child psychiatrist.

For the specialist, “friendship is a protective factor for the mental health of young people.”With a group of strong friends one is more protected, even if they are few. But today nobody talks about friendship in adolescence, precisely at an age when the sense of belonging to a group is vital,” adds the coordinator of the Witnesses to Violence Program of the Hospital Sant Joan de Déu (Barcelona, Spain).

A silent majority

Unpopular has just published its English version on Amazon Kindle and Google Play with the aim of making visible this drama suffered by children and adolescents. “In Anglo-Saxon societies, the feeling of being a ‘loser’ is much stronger and exerts much more pressure than in Mediterranean or Hispanic societies,” explains the author about the importance of her novel being published in English.

For Álvarez-Segura, “bullying has potentially terrible consequences for those who suffer it”. In the novel she talks about these silenced adolescents, those who are not talked about: those who are not problematic, do not have dependencies or psychological disorders, but suffer greatly from peer pressure, the indifference of their environment and, above all, the fear of thinking differently.

In this context, two key factors to prevent bullying are: friendship and family as protective and restorative elements. “Kids must have the opportunity to make real friends. In this sense, it is necessary to promote the importance of “wasting time” in activities with friends, whether they are camps, sports, youth clubs, theater groups, parishes… A lifestyle too focused on acquiring academic performance has disregarded the importance of friendship that is forged especially in adolescence and is for life”, points out Dr. Alvarez-Segura.

About Unpopular

We unpopular people are invisible except for others to mess with us. The monarchy of our class, that court that thinks it is better than everyone else, enjoys humiliating us. The rest keep quiet and stand aside, lest they become the new target. This little group has gone beyond all limits. We don’t know what happened, but one of us left the school after visiting one of their homes. And that’s as far as we’ve come. If you think you are invincible, you will fall when you least expect it. This book addresses the need for relevance, and the pressure that can be exerted by peers. It also deals with other issues such as sexual abuse among peers, the impact of social networks, cultural diversity, hypocrisy and contempt, but above all it reveals friendship as the most powerful tool in the face of injustice.

About Mar Álvarez-Segura

Child and adolescent psychiatrist. She coordinates the Witnesses of Violence Program at the Hospital Sant Joan de Déu (Barcelona, Spain). She is also coordinator of the European projects SAVE (Support and treatment of traumatized children After ViolencE) and RESCCUE (REcover Spaces for traumatized Children in CommUnity sEttings). She is also a professor at the Abat Oliba CEU University.