Complex persecution

Marion Scher tracks the links between bullying and mental health issues in her new book, Big Bully: An Epidemic Of Unkindness


Based on interviews in schools, workplaces and homes, Big Bully tells the story of an epidemic of unkindness, uncovering the stories of bullies all around us. The online environment has given bullies a much wider range of tools to use to abuse their targets. Scher recalls: “I had to brace myself to hear the often heartbreaking and vicious stories from those who encountered torturous relationships. The big question I kept asking myself was, “How could you get involved with such a person?” But just who is that kind of person, and is it even possible to spot them?” She called on the advice of a range of experts to help make sense of the bullies and their victims, to help manage the bully boss, the bully in school and the bully in a relationship. The book features stories, statistics and advice and helps the reader to understand how bullies work. It’s time for victims to call bullies to account and for schools, workplaces and society as a whole to put a stop to the tormentors.

When, and under what circumstances, did the idea for your latest book come to you?

Marion Scher While researching and writing my previous book Surfacing – People Coping with Depression and Mental Illness, I saw a pattern emerging where bullying was often at the root of their problems with depression and mental illness. So I wanted to take this further – hence Big Bully.

Did it initially feel like something to commit to, or was that something that took time to develop?

I’m always committed to a book once I decide to do it. The problem with this book was finding people who would talk openly to me. Many people are almost embarrassed that this has happened to them.

How did you conduct your research or other preparation before writing – was it more experiential or more academic or desk-based?

I’ve been a journalist for 35 years, so I tend to go about my research by doing my statistical and academic research first and then finding my case studies. These entailed interviewing various people, some in person and others online.

When considering influence, do you find yourself wanting to write like someone (in terms of their style, tone or use of language), or aiming for a kind of perspective or storytelling approach you admire or enjoy?

Again, after 35 years I think my style of conversational, page-turning language is what I’m about. I believe in never writing a word I wouldn’t use in everyday conversation, my philosophy being – why write words no one will read from beginning to end?

If money was no object, what additional groundwork would you like to have completed?

It was never a question of money. I know I have finished a book when I have what I consider a solid body of evidence for my reader.

When writing non-fiction, do you have a specific topic that you find endlessly fascinating? Why does this topic excite you so much?

There are two sides of this for me. I find mental health issues not only interesting but vital to get out there to start
conversations and help break the stigma around this topic. But perhaps my biggest love – and what I would love to do more of is around social history. I also ghostwrite other people’s lives and love bringing these to life.

What’s in your to-read pile – and what upcoming book (other than yours!) are you most looking forward to?

Right now, I’m reading My Year Of Meats by Ruth Ozeki, a book I’ve had on myshelf for a while. And I’m really looking forward to reading the new book by Jonny Steinberg – Winnie and Nelson: Portrait of a Marriage.

Text | Bruce Dennill Photography | fizkes
Marion Scher is an award-winning journalist, author
and media consultant. For more information, go to

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