How to prevent teen bullying and suicide
When a 7-year-old is bullied to the point of hanging himself, it puts schoolyard teasing into a whole new light.
Just this week, the autopsy report confirms that the Detriot boy’s death was, in fact, a suicide. His parents has been aware of the bullying and were actively seeking assistance.
But, not soon enough.
His case is unusual in that most youth suicides are among older children or adolescents — the number of which has also been on the rise.
Several teen suicides have been publicized on the news in recent years, often times in relation to cyberbullying. Cyberbullying involves harassment or bullying using social media outlets either anonymously or out in the open.
Most recently in the news, the young man responsible for cyberbullying 18-year-old Tyler Clementi was sentenced for webcam spying on the homosexual teen. Clementi, a Rutgers student at the time, ultimately jumped to his death from the George Washington Bridge back in 2010.
The recent reported increases in teen suicides are not simply due to more suicides occurring. It is also due to an increased awareness, according to Dr. Jacqueline Smith, child and adolescent psychiatrist at University of North Carolina Hospitals.
While increased media coverage of suicides do bring it to parents attention, it can also have the opposite effect of encouraging more suicides.
“There can be almost a contagion effect when teen suicide is highly publicized,” Smith says. “It may make it seem easier to do for those youth already contemplating suicide and — for those who haven’t yet thought about suicide — it can almost romanticize the act in their eyes.”
Suicide is the sixth leading cause of death in youth ages five to 14, and third among those 15 to 24. In general, African-American youth commit suicide less than whites. But, Smith says it’s still a concern that shouldn’t be ignored.
“If something seems different or not quite right about your child, just ask them how they are doing,” she says. “Changes in behavior and emotions can be a sign that youth are contemplating suicide.”
There is a clear connection between certain suicides and bullying by peers, but actual statistics on the overall connection is unknown. For every one child committing suicide from bullying, though, much more bullying goes unnoticed.
Some studies suggest that half of youth are bullied during their school years and one in ten are bullied on a regular basis.
“Youth who bully others may have been victims of abuse or neglect themselves,” Smith says.
There are other factors that lead to bullying others, she adds, such as the bully being isolated from peers him or herself, or exposure to violence in the home or television.
Bullying is a way for youth to deal with these intense emotions. He or she attempts to control and hurt others in order to feel in control, according to Smith.