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The Link Between Bullying and Child Suicide


Although suicide in elementary school children is rare, it's still a far too common cause of death among children ages 5 to 12.

Unfortunately, the numbers don't get any better once children reach their pre-teen and teen years.

Many factors contribute to suicidal thoughts in children and teens but bullying and suicide appear to show a very common link.

Bullying and Suicide Statistics

According to a study by the International Academy for Suicide Research (IASR), middle school students who express suicidal thoughts are more likely than their peers to either be the offenders or victims of bullying.

But bullying and suicide statistics take an unexpected turn: the study goes on to state that children and teens who become either victims or perpetrators of peer harassment are more likely to experience low self-worth, depression, hopelessness, and loneliness.

Other studies mentioned in the article suggest that most bullies were bullied themselves in the past which creates a vicious cycle of abuse and victimization.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the leading cause of death in individuals ages 10 to 34 – that's a very large age range.

Kids and teens between the ages of 10 and 17 face increased pressure from school, parents, responsibilities, and, of course, peers. This peer abuse comes in many forms such as teasing, shunning, name calling, physical harm, and degrading sexual gestures.

Effects of Bullying That Can Lead to Suicide or Long-Term Mental Health Damage

As mentioned above, both perpetrators and victims face many long-term effects of bullying. Although it's impossible to control your child's or teen's environment, you can take a proactive approach to their mental health treatment.

Even those who witness bullying as innocent bystanders are not immune to the devastating effects of bullying.

Participating in, being a victim of, or witnessing bullying in your immediate vicinity can lead to:

  • Substance abuse
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Poor school performance including bad grades and missed days
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Unsafe sexual practices
  • Adult criminal convictions
  • Abusive behavior in romantic relationships as adults
  • Physical health complaints
  • A broad range of other mental health issues

Although effects vary between the perpetrators, victims, and bystanders, it's important to look at the long-term effects of bullying in a comprehensive fashion.

Why? Because those who are victims of bullying often become bullies themselves later in life and vice versa. Nothing exists in a vacuum.

In fact, bullying itself does not directly lead to suicide. Rather, it manifests with many other factors such as mental health issues, societal pressures, financial status, and family problems which contributes to an environment that leads to suicidal thoughts.

Watch Out for the Warning Signs of Bullying and Suicide

Since bullying and suicide often go together, it's crucial for parents and oved ones to thoroughly understand the symptoms of chronic depression and possible suicidal thoughts. Keep an eye out for these warning signs which could indicate your child is experiencing depression or suicidal thoughts from bullying:

  • Giving away their most treasured possessions and saying goodbye to loved ones
  • Talking about how they cannot handle life or their social situation any longer
  • Expressing an interest in death or their life ending in general
  • Substance abuse including drugs and alcohol
  • Dangerous or reckless behavior
  • Self-harm including cutting, hair pulling, or skin picking
  • Isolating and withdrawing from activities
  • Losing interest in activities they once enjoyed
  • Avoiding certain situations or people
  • Sleep disturbances or insomnia
  • Eating disorders or lack of appetite

The Connection Between Cyberbullying and Suicide

As a society, the internet and our connectivity to the world has become vital to survival in many ways. Finances, school work, job applications, social connections: everything is done online.

This also means that abuse takes place in the digital realm. For children and teens, the effects of cyberbullying are mortifying.

According to the IASR, most cyberbullying seems to start out innocently enough: children and teens post something about another person to make their followers laugh. Although making fun of someone is never okay, it's very common for the lines to become blurred between laughing with or at someone.

Unfortunately, this also means that cyberbullying and suicide share a direct link. Imagine if every time you opened your phone or computer, someone was laughing at you – not with you.

That's the reality many children and teens face today.

Other forms of cyber abuse include:

  • Posting a picture of someone online without their consent
  • Messaging someone with the intent of causing anger or annoyance
  • Posting something on social media with the purpose of upsetting someone

Bullying and Suicide: Know Where to Get Help

If your child or teen is a victim or perpetrator of bullying, it's important for them to receive qualified mental health treatment.

Always approach the conversation from a position of support and care. If you're worried your child or teen may not be honest with you about their mental health state, find a trusted adult they can talk to.

Everyone is unique. For this reason, it's important for mental health treatment plans to be personalized based on your child's individual condition and needs.

A comprehensive mental health treatment plan for bullying and depression may include:

  • Dialectical behavioral therapy to build coping skills
  • A focus on integrating family members into the recovery process
  • Substance abuse counseling and treatment
  • Both one-on-one and group therapy

If you, a child, or loved one are experiencing suicidal thoughts, call the national suicide prevention hotline immediately at 1-800-273-8255 – help is available here 24 hours a day, seven days per week.

Desert Parkway Behavioral Healthcare Hospital is Here to Help

Desert Parkway Behavioral Healthcare Hospital is a mental health facility in the heart of Las Vegas, Nevada. We put our core values of compassion, respect, and dignity into each treatment program.

Our mental health program for children and teens provides personalized programs for children ages 5 to 12 and teens 13 to 17. Each program includes a variety of evidence-based techniques such as dialectical behavioral therapy, one-on-one therapy, group therapy, and comprehensive discharge planning.

If you have a child or teen struggling with the devastating effects of bullying, don't hesitate to contact Desert Parkway Behavioral Healthcare Hospital for a confidential assessment or call at 877-663-7976.

We are available 24/7. Call 877-663-7976. Hablamos español.