Search the web and you’ll find many stories of children and teens who committed suicide after a period of time of being bullied. They are heartbreaking stories of young adults who have chosen to take their lives to avoid facing the assaults they receive at school.
Last year, one teen from Connecticut committed suicide after just one day of returning to school. Apparently, he had endured many years of bullying from classmates, including very violent assaults. In the eighth grade he was sent to the emergency room for stitches after being bullied in the hallway where other students watched the event. Sadly, he had published many warnings signs on social media sites before taking his life.
Another student in Florida, only 12 years old, committed suicide after months of ongoing bullying through aggressive online messages and texts. Although the young girl transferred to another school, the bullying continued. Up to 15 girls were assaulting her through messages that told her to “drink bleach and die”. Sadly, one girl admitted that she didn’t care that she died. Two of the girls who bullied her were charged with felonies and will spend time in juvenile detention.
Stories like this seem almost endless on the web. Although teen bullying has been going on for generations, it has been recently that states (all but Montana) have enacted laws against bullying. The relationship between bullying and the mental health of adolescents is clear.
At a Increased Risk
A recent article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association – Psychiatry indicated that victims of bullying are at increased risk for emotional disorders in adulthood. And that bullies as well as victims of bullying are at the highest risk to think about and plan suicide. The relationship between teen bullying and mental illnesses were confirmed in a study done by Duke University last spring. They revealed that effects of bullying are long-lasting for both the victim and the bully.
The study monitored 1420 children, ages 9 to 16 over a period of several years to determine whether bullying could lead to psychiatric illness or suicide. The study found that the victims of bullying are prone to higher rates of:
Agoraphobia – the fear of being in a place or situation from which escape is difficult or impossible.
Generalized Anxiety Disorder (GAD) – a diagnosis given to those who experience excessive and irrational worry for at least six months. The excessive anxiety interferes with the ability to function and usually consists of extreme anxiety for everyday matters.
Panic Disorder – a mental health condition in which an individual experiences sudden and repeated attacks of fear. Which can be accompanied by a feeling of being out of control. Uncomfortable physical sensations, such as a pounding heart, sweating, weakness, dizziness, and numbness makes up the experience a panic attack. An intense worry about the next attack is a common symptom.
According to the study, those who were both bullies and victims, are prone to panic disorder, agoraphobia, suicidal thoughts and behavior as well as:
Major Depressive Disorder – is a medical illness that includes symptoms of persistent sadness, loss of interest in daily activities, occupational and educational impairment, along with eventual emotional and physical problems. Major Depressive Disorder usually requires long-term treatment, including psychotherapy and medication.
Lastly, those children and teens who were only bullies were at risk for antisocial personality disorder. This is a diagnosis to those who have a history of violating the law, being violent towards others, and who can be manipulative.
Because of the relationships between teen bullying and mental illness many states have bullying prevention programs, which are being implemented in schools. Of course, if you are a parent, your role is also essential for supporting the safety of your teen. If you suspect, that your adolescent is either a victim or a bully, the right mental health professional or educator can facilitate the prevention of further assaults.
Golgowski, N. (Sept. 3, 2014). “Connecticut teen who committed suicide after first day of school underwent years of bullying say friends” Daily News. Retrieved on March 20, 2014 from http://www.nydailynews.com/news/national/connecticut-teen-committed-suicide-bullied-years-friends-article-1.1444213
Stanglin, D. & Welch, W. (Oct. 16, 2013). Two girls arrested on bullying charges after suicide.” USA Today. Retrieved on March 20, 2014 from http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2013/10/15/florida-bullying-arrest-lakeland-suicide/2986079/