Bullying Tied to Suicide Thoughts and Attempts

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Kid's Doctor

Posted on March 16, 2014 at 5:02 AM

The emotional pain of being bullied can lead some kids to think about killing themselves and others to follow through with actually attempting suicide. Sadly, far too many young kids and adolescents have succeeded in ending their lives because of the hurtful actions, mean words and cyber aggression of others.

Some people may assume that bullying is just a part of growing up and relatively harmless, but a new analysis of previously published studies on bullying, found that school children who are bullied are more than twice as likely to think about killing themselves and to attempt suicide as children who are not bullied.

Researchers also found that cyber-bullying, such as harassment over the Internet, was more closely linked to suicidal thoughts than in-person bullying.

"We found that suicidal thoughts and attempted suicides are significantly related to bullying, a highly prevalent behavior among adolescents," Mitch van Geel told Reuters Health in an email.

Van Geel is the study's lead author from the Institute of Education and Child Studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

He said it's estimated that between 15 and 20 percent of children and teens are involved in bullying as the perpetrator, victim or both.

Studies have discovered links between bullying and suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts, but there are still a lot of questions left that need answering.

Cyber-bullying is a relatively new phenomenon, in research and analysis time, so fewer studies have been completed. 

For this latest analysis, published in JAMA Pediatrics, researchers found 34 studies that examined bullying and suicidal thoughts among 284,375 participants between nine and 21 years old.

They also found nine studies that examined the relationship between bullying and suicide attempts among 70,102 participants of the same age.

Overall, participants who were bullied were more than twice as likely to think about killing themselves. They were also about two and a half times more likely to attempt killing themselves.

In one study included in the analysis, researchers found that about 3 percent of students from New York State who were not bullied thought about or attempted suicide. That compared to 11 percent of students who were frequently bullied.

The extra risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts tied to bullying was similar among participants of different age groups and among boys and girls.

In the handful of studies on cyber-bullying, researchers found that those victims were more likely to have suicidal thoughts than kids who experienced traditional face-to-face bullying.

"At this point, this is speculative and more research is definitely needed on cyber-bullying," van Geel wrote.

It could be, however, that cyber-bullying victims feel belittled in front of a wider audience and may relive the attacks because they are stored on the Internet, he added.

Some experts have cautioned that the studies included in the analysis don’t prove a causal connection between being bullied and suicidal thoughts or suicide attempts among the participants. As one noted researcher explained, it could be, for example, that kids who attempt or think about suicide are more likely to be bullied.

Many schools have implemented no-bullying policies and programs to help children who are targets of bullying have a voice and a safe place to talk and receive counseling.

Those steps have helped bring attention to the problem of bullying in some schools. However, it may take a change in adolescent attitude and societal pressure to make bullying lose its power.

"There are now meta-analyses that demonstrate that bullying is related to depression, psychosomatic problems and even suicide attempts, and thus we should conclude that bullying is definitely not harmless," said van Geel.  

Source: Andrew M. Seaman,  http://www.reuters.com/article/2014/03/10/us-bullying-among-kids-idUSBREA291JS20140310

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