I recently read a paper published February 2011 in the Psychiatric Times re bullying and its effects on adolescent suicides (written by By Anat Brunstein Klomek, PhD, Andre Sourander, MD and Madelyn S. Gould, PhD, MPH – bio’s provided below). The paper noted, “The results pertaining to bullies are less consistent. Some studies show an association with depression, while others do not. The prevalence of suicidal ideation is higher in bullies than in persons not involved in bullying behavior. Studies among middle school and high school students show an increased risk of suicidal behavior among bullies and victims. Both perpetrators and victims are at the highest risk for suicidal ideation and behavior.”
The Psychiatric Times notes –
What is already known about this topic?
■ Childhood and adolescent bullying is recognized as a major public health problem in the Western world, and it appears to be associated with suicidality. Recently, cyberbullying has become an increasing public concern in light of recent cases associated with youth suicides that have been reported in the mass media.
What are the clinical implications?
■ Mental health practitioners should understand the relationship between bullying/cyberbullying behavior and suicide. Children who are frequently involved in bullying/cyberbullying behavior should be screened for psychiatric problems. In any prevention effort, it is important that students understand that there is always hope to stop the situation and they should be taught the skills to end the bullying/cyberbullying.
Of particular note in this report was the commentary on reporting frequent instance of bullying and the correlation with future psychiatric problems. The report continues with commentary on the need to increase awareness about bullying and cyberbullying and the necessary efforts to prevent them. The study opines that showing videos or commenting on those who have committed suicide due to bullying, while well-intentioned my inadvertently be perceived by adolescents as a reward for their act of suicide. I’d like to see more on this topic, before I curtail my efforts to document the suicides in the US associated with bullying. I fully agree with the report which states that “it is important that students understand that there is always hope to stop the situation and they should be taught the skills to end the bullying/cyberbullying. When adaptive coping skills and hope for change are not presented, students may feel powerless and hopeless, which increases their risk of suicide.”
Welcome your thoughts on this study and the authors findings.
- Dr Klomek is adjunct senior lecturer at the School of Psychology, Interdisciplinary Center (IDC) Herzliya, Israel; a scientist at the Feinberg Child Study Center, Schneider Children’s Medical Center of Israel; and an adjunct associate research scientist in the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at Columbia University in New York.
- Dr Sourander is professor of child psychiatry at Turku University Hospital in Finland.
- Dr Gould is professor in the department of epidemiology of the division of child psychiatry at Columbia University and a research scientist at the New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York. The authors report no conflicts of interest concerning the subject matter of this article.