WITH Christmas on the horizon, thousands of Gwent residents are already looking forward to a seasonal break from the daily stresses of life.

Yet, for some, the sanctuary of Christmas brings relief of a different kind: a rest biterespite from a daily struggle that is often unbeknown to others – bullying.

Gwent Police is taking a stand against bullying by supporting Stonewall Cymru’s no bystanders campaign during anti-bullying week, which began on Monday and runs until November 21.

The police’s support for the campaign marks the force’s latest move in tackling bullying and hate crimes, following last month’s one-day conference on understanding and tackling disability hate crime in Gwent.

Stonewall, the lesbian, gay and bisexual (LGBT) charity, has fought for the rights of the LGBT community since they were established in 1989.

The charity’s #NoBystanders campaign aims to tackle all forms of bullying and Gwent Police will support the campaign throughout the week by using the hashtag in tweets and having officers photographed with the pledge.

The campaign comes in response to Stonewall’s research that reveals more than 75,000 young people will be bullied this year for being gay, and 21,000 of these will attempt suicide.

Stonewall’s research also reveals that homophobic bullying and abuse can have a devastating impact on young people’s self-esteem, with one in three gay pupils who experience homophobic bullying changing their education plans for future education because of it.

Andrew White, Stonewall Cymru director, said that he hopes Gwent Police signing the pledge will prompt others in Gwent to tackle bullying of all kinds.

He said: “We know that what we learn in the playground can last a lifetime.

“It is heartbreaking that so many young people are being targeted by bullying language and in some cases (are driven to) attempting suicide.

“We hope that Gwent Police signing the pledge prompts individuals, other police forces, and other organisations to do more to tackle abuse – whether in the playground, in our workplaces or on our streets.”

Many officers, including the chief officer team and the police and crime commissioner have already displayed their support for the #NoBystanders campaign by being photographed with the pledge.

The police and crime commissioner, Ian Johnston, said that bullying can destroy people’s lives. He said: “Whether it’s in school, in the community, online or in the workplace, bullying in all its forms can escalate to potentially damage or even destroy people’s lives.

“Campaigns such as this one are vital to raise awareness that bullying should not be tolerated and should be tackled before it escalates.”

Chief Constable Jeff Farrar said that bullying can often progress into hate crime.

He said: “No bystanders sends a strong message about bullying which is unacceptable in itself and which can often progress into hate crime. Discrimination comes in many forms and I encourage people not to accept it and to stand up to it.”

Last month, Gwent Police and Torfaen People First held a one-day conference to raise awareness of hate crime and to discuss best practice to tackle disability hate crime in Gwent.

The conference, which was called ‘smashing the barrier’, was attended by over 100 people and provided information about the 31 Talk About It centres across Gwent. These centres were introduced in 2010 as a way for people with learning disabilities to report hate crimes.

Force hate crime lead Mark Warrender attended the conference and said that latest police statistics reveal just 11 reports of disability hate crime were made were reported last year in Gwent.

He said: “A hate crime is defined as any criminal offence which is perceived, by the victim or any other person, to be motivated by a hostility or prejudice based on a personal characteristic.

“Disability hate crime is under reported and victims sometimes feel that it is not a crime or they are in fear and feel the police would not be interested. That is not the case.”