CDC findings show higher suicide-related behaviors among youth involved in bullying

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The Journal of Adolescent Health released a special issue focusing for the first time on the relationship between bullying and suicide.  The special issue was assembled by an expert panel brought together by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  The panel looked at the latest research that examined youth involvement in bullying as a victim, perpetrator, or both and found them to be highly associated with suicidal thoughts and behaviors.  The panel also examined the association of youth involved in bullying who experience suicide-related behaviors and other risk factors for suicide, such as depression, delinquency, physical and sexual abuse, and exposure to violence.

The special issue includes the following:


  1. Garry L. Earles, LICSW's avatar
    Garry L. Earles, LICSW
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    It should be obvious that bullying can engender suicidal thought and ideation. What’s difficult to ascertain is the oft-made assumption that bullying causes suicide. In my inquiries at both the state (Massachusetts) and federal level, it was discovered that there is no such statistic on “suicide by bullying” as there is for “suicide by firearm” or “suicide by hanging (suffocation).” That is not to debate, let alone deny, the abundant anecdotal evidence as seen in, for instance, Bullycide: Death At Playtime,” by Neil Marr and Tim Field that posits a direct causal link between bullying and suicide. Were it that simple.

    A few years ago this issue gained national prominence when Phoebe Prince of South Hadley, MA committed suicide (by hanging) which was definitively linked to bullying by the then leading law-enforcement official in the county. Come to find out, thanks to the detailed expose by Emily Bazelon of, that Ms. Prince was beset with on-going mental health challenges which quite possibly were more of a trajectory for her eventual suicide than was the bullying although the bullying certainly didn’t help her cause. Regardless, thereafter, due to national media hype, youth suicide became the public face of bullying. Yet, while there was a rush, especially in Massachusetts, my home state, to implement anti-bullying legislation and anti-bullying policies and programs in schools, little if anything was and is done to address youth suicide. And, bullying, rather than being seen as a mental health issue, is mostly seen as kids behaving badly, at least toward one another. So, once again, stopping the behavior is paramount, accomplished by holding kids accountable and responsible for fixing the problem.

    While bullying and suicide associated with bullying get tremendous press coverage, youth suicide NOT associated with bullying, does not, as if to imply that there are different “kinds” of youth suicide, those that can be “blamed” on something or somebody and those, well.

    It’s more than time to place bullying in it’s proper context, under the continuum of violence and as a mental health issue where it belongs and start paying attention to the most critical of mental health concerns, in this instance, youth suicide. Curiously, anti-bullying has become a cottage industry raking in millions for expert consultants and prevention programs that by and large are utter failures. Suicide prevention, on the other hand, has been shown to be effective with such programs being of low cost or free. Go figure.

    Thanks for taking the time to read and consider my comments.
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