Strong link between bullying and suicide

Strong link between bullying and suicide

Bullying and suicide among youth are a serious public health problem, a CDC expert panel reported in the Journal of Adolescent Health today. The authors explained that bullying can have long-lasting and damaging effects which can persist for months and even years.

Several studies over the last few years have associated bullying with depression. The media has covered the theme extensively. In view of this, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) decided to gather a group of experts (Panel) to focus on bullying, its causes and consequences, and how to address it.

The Panel gathered data from latest research on the complex relationship between bullying and suicidal behaviors among young people. They found that three themes stood out:

  • Youth bullying is a major public health problem in America. Bullying causes extensive and often damaging mental and physical health problems
  • There is a close link between bullying and suicide-related behaviors
  • Bullying and suicide are problems that need to be addressed, and with public health strategies, they can be
The Panel's findings have been published in a Special Supplement of the Journal of Adolescent Health (see Reference section below for table of contents). It begins with a perceptive Editorial by Marci Feldman, MS, CDC, Atlanta, Georgia, and Ingrid Dona and James Wright, MS, LCPC, both from the Center for Mental Health Services, part of SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) in Rockville, Maryland.

In the USA today, from 20% to 56% of young people are involved in bullying every year, either as a bullies or victims, and sometimes both. Incidences of bullying are higher in middle school than high school.

Verbal bullying is more common than cyber or physical bullying. Verbal bullying tends to go on for longer. Young lesbian and gay people are at a much higher risk of being bullied, compared to heterosexuals.

The problem of bullying and being bullied is compounded by the poor mental and physical health of both the victims and perpetrators.

People who are involved in bullying are likely to suffer long-lasting consequences, including:

  • anxiety
  • depression
  • stomach pains
  • tension
These symptoms can persist for months and possibly years, even after the bullying incidents are over, according to studies published in this Special Supplement. Bullied children have a higher risk of developing anxiety disorders and depression when they are adults, researchers from Duke University Medical Center reported in JAMA Psychiatry.

The experts showed that involvement in bullying is closely associated with suicide risk. Middle school students are three-to-five times more likely to have suicidal ideations and attempt suicide if they are involved in bullying, compared to uninvolved pupils, according to Dorothy Espelage and Melissa K. Holt, authors of "Suicidal Ideation and School Bullying Experiences After Controlling for Depression and Delinquency."

Public health strategies can be applied to prevent bullying, the authors wrote. This would improve the physical and mental health of many young people.

America requires an integrated approach of multiple strategies to address suicide by concentrating on shared risk and protective factors. Supportive school environments, school social support, family support, and teaching individual coping skills are vital if the country is serious about dealing with the bullying and suicide problem.

Guest editor of the Supplement, Marci Feldman Hertz, wrote:

"Given the prevalence and impact of bullying, it is important to move forward while public health strategies are still being developed. We can begin by implementing and evaluating strategies that have demonstrated effectiveness at increasing protective factors and decreasing risk factors associated with both bullying and suicide."

Experts, public health authorities, health care professionals, and educators should widen their focus beyond simply providing services to people who are already involved in suicide-related behaviors and bullying. Bullying and suicide behaviors can be prevented, and the focus should be on that too.

Sibling bullying more damaging than people think - many of us accept fights and teasing among brothers and sisters as a normal part of childhood family life. However, for some children, the bullying can lead to depression and anxiety, researchers from the University of New Hampshire explained in the journal Pediatrics. Lead researcher, Corinna Jenkins Tucker, said "Historically, sibling aggression has been dismissed as normal. It's been seen as benign, or even good for kids because it teaches them something about dealing with the world."

Not all youth behaviors across the bullying spectrum are equivalent - this is what American adults seem to believe. They have different opinions about what type of bullying behaviors should make school staff get involved.

A sample of adults was asked what they considered as bullying, and which should be ignored or not at school by teachers and other school personnel.

When asked whether the school should intervene in cases of..:

  • a child threatening a classmate's physical safety - 96% said yes
  • a child humiliating or embarrassing another child - 81% said yes
  • a child is being socially isolated - 56% said yes

BULLYING AND SUICIDE. (Video Medical And Professional 2020).

Section Issues On Medicine: Medical practice