Can Childhood Bullying Lead to Suicide?

Have you ever been bullied? Or been a bully yourself?

Certainly, bullying has become an international problem with epidemiological studies of middle and high school students in the U.S. and elsewhere suggesting that a substantial minority of children are either bullied, engage in bullying, or both. The actual number may be harder to estimate since many bullying victims choose not to report what is happening. Studies using peer report or anonymous self-report tend to find 13 percent of children admit to have been victims while 17 percent admit to bullying. For children with issues such as ADHD, autism, learning problems, or other neuropsychiatric diagnoses, the likelihood of being a victim tends to be far higher with 40 percent reporting having been bullied at some point in their lives. 

Of all the negative outcomes associated with bullying, suicide is definitely the cause for greatest concern. Along with being the third-leading cause of death among 10 to 19 year-olds in the United States alone, the risk of suicide is even higher in people with psychiatric disorders. One recent study looking at more than 130,000 middle and high school students showed a definite link between suicide ideation/attempts and bullying. The highest risk was for children who have been both bullies and victims (38 percent) with victims of bullying being the next highet risk category (29 percent).    Even bulllies show an elevated suicide risk (22 percent compared to 11 percent for children with no history of being bullied). 

To read more, check out my Psychology Today blog post.


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