Being the subject of malicious gossip or negative rumours can take a significant toll on your mental health

Everybody talks – adults and children alike. Young people talk about school, music, books, TV shows, films, travel and lots more besides. But they also talk about each other. 

When you are part of a friendship group, it’s natural for other people to come up in conversation – who you met up with recently, who’s dating so-and-so, where someone else has gone on holidays.

Things can start to go bad when the tone of the chats becomes malicious, pointed or vindictive towards an individual. For example, if one person has a vendetta against another, they may decide to make up a rumour about them or exaggerate a nugget of truth to create a scandal that becomes ‘hot gossip’ among their peers.

Why do people spread rumours or gossip about others?

  • To feel better about themselves
  • To feel accepted
  • To get attention
  • To relieve boredom
  • To seek revenge

What are the potential consequences for the people being gossiped about?

  • Shattered self-confidence
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Low self-esteem
  • Suicidal thoughts
  • Eating disorders

Spreading rumours is a type of bullying that is mainly aimed at socially ostracizing you. This means it focuses on excluding you but in more subtle ways. It involves the complexity of bullying when it occurs in groups and the bystanders stay silent instead of stepping up to help. However, don’t judge yourself too harshly for not speaking out while listening or partaking in gossip. It takes time for most of us to be able to confront those who are putting us or others down.

How to defend yourself against rumours and gossip

While it might take you some time to start defending yourself, when you do, it takes you from a place of self-preservation to a position of power. Once there, you can put boundaries in place and dictate how you believe you should be treated instead of letting people treat you any way they want.

Do you know what boundaries are and why they are important in any relationship? Click here to read more about setting boundaries.

Spreading rumours and indulging in harmful gossip is not right but how you deal with it is more important. Here are some steps you can take:

  • Alert your school
  • Ask for support from those who are present
  • If you can, get proof to avoid ‘gaslighting’ behaviour
  • Limit your contact with the group
  • Report it to the Gardaí
  • Get support for yourself

Note: There may be trauma that you have experienced from this situation. If so, please do not hesitate to contact a guidance counsellor or therapist for support. 

Finally, there is a team here at Childline who are prepared to listen to you. We will not judge you or tell you what to do, we will go through options which are available to you. We are accessible every day of the week, 24 hours a day. You can reach us over the phone at 1800 66 66 66 or online at (just click the orange Live Chat tab to start a chat).