Bullying takes its toll on victims in a variety of ways. Some victims become depressed, while others take the abuse for only so long before they retaliate. They learn to fight back, either through violence or through finding ways to survive and regain control of their lives. However, others cannot see a way out. For as much as they look for some kind of lifeline to hold onto, despair and hopelessness take over and set them on a course of self-destruction. They begin to believe there is no way out and the only option left to them is ending the pain in the only way they know will be effective: suicide. Read on to know the suicide statistics in the United States, Australia and New Zealand.
Professionals believe that victims of bullying that choose to commit suicide do so because they were depressed and prone to manic episodes long before the bullying started. For some, this may be true. For others, the systematic harassment by individuals whose only goal is to destroy others’ self-confidence and tear away any semblance of stability, bullying can literally take a generally positive person and turn them into a morose, and suicidal shell of their former self.
The case of Megan Meier is a perfect example of what a bully can do to a seemingly normal teenager. Although Megan had the same problems and issues as any other teen, she struggled with depression and took medication to help her control her emotions. Her downfall was becoming involved in an online friendship with someone who later turned out to be completely fictitious. The person responsible for the creation of this fictitious friend was another young girl, whose main intention behind the hoax was to find a way to hurt Megan. This young girl knew Megan and had at one point been friends with her. With the help of her mother, the girl set out to find a way to attack Megan.
She created a profile on MySpace for a young man named Josh, and using that profile, she gained Megan’s trust and convinced her, over a period of weeks, that Josh liked her. When she was sure Megan was caught up in the game, she began sending emails, supposedly from Josh, stating that he wanted nothing more to do with her. This girl turned Megan’s world upside down by using Josh’s profile to destroy her confidence and convince her that she didn’t deserve happiness. In a matter of days, Megan’s despair got the best of her and she ended her own life. She was a few days short of her 14th birthday.
In regards to bullying and suicide statistics, many believed this is an isolated case; however, statistics in several countries are beginning to prove otherwise. The connection between bullying and suicide is becoming increasingly apparent. Researchers in Australia and New Zealand are discovering an increasing number of suicides by teenagers, which may be attributed to being bullied by their peers. Additionally, it is being revealed that even happy-go-lucky teens in the United States can eventually take the path of suicide if other teenagers push them far enough.
Bullying Tactics Used to Destroy Self-Confidence
Bullies use a variety of tactics to tear through a person’s resolve and convince them they are unworthy or useless. Bullies, who intend to demean and degrade their targets, use tactics that they believe will cause the most damage possible in a short period of time. A few of the more prominent methods used include:
- Belittling someone because of their looks, their parents’ financial standing out of spite or jealousy
- Berating another student by telling them they are worthless and no one cares about them, thus shattering their self-confidence
- Creating a fraudulent story about another student in an attempt to turn others against them so that no one likes them and no one wants to be their friend
- Using tactics that inspire fear, threatening another student’s friends, family members and loved ones as a way to make them do whatever the bully desires
Making the target believe the worst about themselves gets easier as time goes by. The continual berating of a person can send a person into a downward spiral that ends in an almost hopeless depression. Once they reach the point where they truly believe they are worthless, the bully has essentially given them the reason they need to end their life.
General Bullying and Suicide Statistics
According to the Center for Disease Control, suicide is responsible for almost 4,400 teen deaths each year. In other words, suicide is ranked 3rd when it comes to what causes the most deaths in young people in America. It is also noted that there are over 100 suicide attempts for each successful suicide. The same study speculates that students aged 10 to 14 are more likely to commit suicide than other age groups.
Studies performed by Yale suggest that victims of bullies are between 2 to 9 times more likely to commit suicide at some point in their teenage years. In Great Britain, a study performed there went so far as to suggest that almost half of the suicides committed in that country were directly related to bullying.
The suicide statistics bear witness to the fact that there is a definite connection between bullying and suicide. One of the keys to discovering the link has been in the increased number of reports of bullying that have been documented over the last few decades. In the past, many victims of bullying did not report the attacks for fear of retaliation. They were either told their was nothing that could be done or to just suck it up and go on about their business. No one seemed to care if they were being picked on or put down, so the majority of the victims stopped reporting the problem. However, recently, things have gradually started to change.
While the fear may still be present, students are more likely to seek help today than they were in the past. This is partly due to the fact that more people are becoming aware of how bullying affects its victims. Victims of bullying are also realizing that with more people being aware of what is going on, they will not be ignored or told they are over-reacting. Support groups are being formed to help students handle the trauma of being bullied and counselors are receiving extra training on how to deal with both the victim, as well as the bully.
Bullying and Suicide Statistics – United States
In the United States, students can experience bullying in several different ways. They can be picked on at school, on the playing field, in the street and even in the comfort of their own home through the use of the Internet, also known as cyber bullying. Cyber bullying has become one of the most common methods in which bullies target their victims. Bullies hide behind their screens and strike whenever the urge hits them. They can create fictitious identities and can appear in their victims’ lives without any warning, where victims are unable to predict when the next attack will be.
According to the Megan Meier Foundation, white female ninth grade students were the ones who were targeted the most by bullies while on school property. Other age groups and ethnicities are also targeted on a regular basis, where the younger a student is, the more likely they will be victimized. In 2011, students reported to the Megan Meier Foundation experiencing several of the following forms of bullying during the school year:
- 18% were the victims of reported rumors and fictitious stories
- 18% were made fun of or ridiculed by their peers
- 6% claimed they were intentionally left out of specific activities
- 8% claimed they were touched physically, some reported being pushed while other said they were spit on or tripped
- 5% reported that threats of physical harm had been made against them or members of their family
- 3% claimed they had been coerced or forced into performing activities against their wishes
- 3% reported to authorities that bullies had destroyed or damaged their property intentionally
Bullying takes on many forms. 59% of reports detailed cases of verbal abuse at the hands of bullies. Relational or social bullying accounted for almost 50% of cases reported to school counselors. Another 39% reported physical altercations with bullies on a regular basis. Cyber bullying came in last with 17% of the reports involving cases that were associated with the Internet.
In the United States, almost 45% of members of the National Educators Association claim that bullying is a major problem with their schools. 62% of that number claimed to have witnessed multiple cases of bullying throughout the school year. Reports that bullying occurs on a daily basis have continued to increase over the past few years. More and more teachers are coming to grips with the fact that their schools are the most common place for bullies to attack their victims. Even with almost constant supervision, bullies are able to reach their targets almost unhindered.
Outside of the school environment, the most common way for a bully to lash out at their victim is over the Internet. Cyber bullying affects nearly 45% of children who are active on the Internet. Some studies suggest that 1 out of every 4 is a repeat victim. At least 70% of students have witnessed an online cyber attack by a bully against another student.
With these numbers of bullying and suicide statistics climbing at an alarming rate, schools are implementing anti-bullying programs to attempt to raise awareness of the problem and hopefully reduce the number of suicide statistics that result from cyber bullying and online attacks. Both parents and teachers alike are working with their children in an attempt to reduce the devastating effects bullying can have on their lives.
Students, both bullies and victims alike, believe that cyber bullying is occurring at such an alarming rate because it is easier for the bully to hide. It is also harder to prove who is actually doing the bullying. The bully is able to protect his identity and remain completely anonymous; their only downfall is if they slip and provide a clue as to who they really are. Law enforcement can trace many types of communication through a computer’s IP address; nevertheless, if the bully is using a public wireless connection, it can be much more difficult to trace.
With the majority of high school students having their own cell phones, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of reports of cyber bullying through text messages and cell phone calls. Approximately 80% of teens report being bullied by someone through text messages or phone calls. Most teens use their cell phones and tablets on a daily basis, providing ample opportunity for a bully to attack them through their phone.
With the introduction of the cell phone, emails, texts and instant messaging, victims became much more accessible to their bullies. Many teenagers have smart phones that are capable of receiving almost every type of communication. This means a bully can lash out using almost any medium and connect with their target at any given time, either day or night. Students who have linked their social media accounts can be contacted through emails or instant messaging. Bullies no longer need phone numbers to make contact.
While cell phones make it much easier to harass their victims at will, once the incidents are reported, it is much easier for them to be caught. By tracing a cell phone’s movements and the towers it connects with when sending and receiving messages, it provides a detailed road map as to where the bully was at any given time as well as an accurate record of what was sent and received by both the victim and the bully.
Consequently, suicide statistics in the US show that the third leading cause of death amongst people between the ages of 15 to 24 is suicide, where 16% of students contemplate suicide. 13% of which formulate a suicide plan and 8% attempt to take their own lives. On that note, victims of bullying are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider taking their own lives.
Bullying and Suicide Statistics – Australia
Australian suicide statistics also provide alarming details about bullying in that country as well. Studies by researchers in that country claim that at least 1 out of every 10 children has been bullied in person, and the statistics are also high for victims of online attacks. The Australian Centre for Adolescent Health claims that children who have been victimized by bullies are almost three times more likely to show signs of depression. In fact, some researchers believe that students who have been bullied repeatedly often begin to show signs of psychotic episodes.
The same Australian suicide statistics also suggest that students who are bullied are 9 times more likely to attempt or at least contemplate committing suicide. Something that people must consider when it comes to teens that are bullied, is that many never report the incident. As the number of teen suicides continues to rise, it is hard to determine just how many can be attributed to bullying.
In Australia, organizations such as the National Centre Against Bullying are leading the way in implementing programs in schools that will raise awareness about suicide and the effects it can have on all involved. It is their goal to reduce suicide statistics by making sure that both students and parents understand what resources are available to them if the students have been victimized by a bully.
With the constant rise in suicide statistics, Australian educators are in the same position as those in the United States, where it is apparent that much more needs to be done to raise awareness and protect students from the negative impact of bullying. It is unclear, however, what is the best way to proceed.
Students and teachers alike understand that bullying is a serious problem that must be addressed in a rational and straightforward manner. While most are concerned with the impact on the victim, few show much concern for the perpetrator. Australian statistics also show that almost 1 in 4 individuals, who were accused of bullying during their high school years, had an extensive police record before they reached their 30th birthday.
For Australian educators, this number is unacceptable. Many encourage students who have been accused of being bullies to seek counseling and try to uncover why they feel the need to cause harm to others. The goal is to look beyond the bully’s anger and frustration and find the cause that is leading them to continually lash out. In some cases, there is no pattern or reason except for jealousy or dislike for the other person. While counseling is recommended, many students ignore the advice of the counselors and continue bullying others.
Bullying and Suicide Statistics – New Zealand
Bullying statistics for New Zealand are very similar to those of the United States and Australia, where many of the statistics released for New Zealand include several instances of school violence. One recent report involved an attack on a 14-year-old female student who suffered a fractured spine. The girl received multiple blows from two other female students who attacked her during an outdoor sporting event.
Much of the outrage surrounding the event stemmed from the principal’s refusal to contact he authorities when the girl was injured. This is not uncommon in New Zealand; over the years, the country has gained the reputation of having the worst track record when it comes to sufficiently dealing with bullies.
There are few programs in place to address the issue of bullying. Victims have few resources to turn to once they have reported an incident of bullying. Even when the identity of the bully is known, little action is taken to punish them for their actions and little room for the victim’s rights or feelings after the attack is left.
Organizations are forming in New Zealand that are trying to address the increasing number of reports of bullying. Statistics involving bullying in New Zealand are not well kept and educators within the school systems are the only ones who attempt to keep track of bullying incidents. One of the things that sets New Zealand apart from other countries is the incidents where bullies have been known to blatantly attack adults as well as students.
According to the Guardian, New Zealand has the second highest rate of suicide of young people in the world; however, suicide statistics in New Zealand are not monitored and recorded properly.
On a global level, bullying impacts both adults and children alike, where the effects of bullying can last throughout a person’s lifetime. Some victims are able to overcome the effects of bullying and live a normal life. Victims who choose not to let being bullied define how they think of themselves can often get past most of the trauma caused by the negative actions of others.
Other victims have a more difficult time dealing with the emotional and physical scars they receive at the hands of their attackers. In some cases, the emotional stress is so great they see no other way out except for suicide. When they reach that point, most believe that reporting the bully will only make matters worse. Depression turns into feelings of hopelessness and hopelessness leads to despair.
Individuals, who have been bullied, are encouraged to report the incident to a teacher, mentor, parent or member of law enforcement. Once an incident has been reported, the victim can then begin to address any emotional problems they may be having. Victims who choose not to seek counseling can experience a variety of psychological issues that include low self-esteem, poor self-image and severe bouts of depression.
Figures that relate to depression caused by bullying and the subsequent suicide statistics that accompany it, show that bullying directly affects not only the victim of the attack, but also their friends, family and classmates. When the person being victimized has a strong support system, the impact of the incident is much less traumatic than if the victim had no one to turn to, as victims who receive counseling shortly after the incident are less likely to experience severe bouts of depression or contemplate suicide.
Individuals, who have few resources at their disposal, often have nowhere to turn and no one to talk to about the event. Even if it is reported, they have little recourse when it comes to making sure the bully is brought to justice. In most cases, especially in a school setting, bullies are often expelled or suspended from school for a few days. Nevertheless, this does nothing to stop them from attacking their victim a second time.
In cases where a protective order has been obtained against the bully, it is only effective when it comes to personal attacks. It does nothing to protect the victim from cyber bullying attacks. As a result, if a bully wants to continue to harass their victim, they can attack repeatedly through the Internet, a cell phone or email.
School officials recognize the fact that bullies are present in their schools. Statistics continue to prove that daily incidents of bullying can cause a student’s performance and GPA to be affected. Teachers and counselors alike are continually evaluating the statistics to determine how they can better protect their students from being attacked.
Many schools are implementing anti-bullying programs that are designed, not only to raise awareness but also provide both students and teachers with the resources they need to help them deal with the aftermath of an attack. No matter what form the bullying takes, knowing how to handle oneself in that kind of situation can make the difference between becoming a victim or being a survivor, all with the aim of reducing the effects of bullying and suicide statistics.
Bullying that involves verbal threats and comments are undoubtedly the most common. School officials are aware that very little can be done to punish bullies who verbally threaten, tease, berate or put down other students. Victims of verbal bullying are often told there is nothing that can be done unless someone actually witnesses the attack.
Social bullying that entails turning other students against the intended victim or spreading rumors in an attempt to cost the victim valuable friendships is also extremely hard to prove. It is basically one student’s word against another.
Bullies who use physical violence to harm or injure another student can have criminal charges pressed against them, especially if the victim sustained any type of physical injury. Unless someone witnesses the altercation, the victim may have trouble getting law enforcement to file charges. However, charges an be pressed if other students or faculty members witnessed threats made by the bully against the victim.
There are several studies available that claim victims who have been bullied repeatedly over long periods of time and suffer severe bouts of depression because of it, will often contemplate suicide, as was with the case of Amanda Diane Cummings, who jumped in front of a bus because her classmates teased her, in addition to being a victim of cyber bulling.
It is alarming how very little is known about suicide statistics in relation to bullying. While the number of reported bullying incidents continues to rise, some believe the true number of cases will never be fully realized. This is partly due to the fact that not all victims choose to report each and every case.
With the suicide statistics available today, it is apparent that the number of bullying cases that end in suicide is at epidemic proportions; nonetheless, while there are several suicide statistics available on the number of suicides that are the result of bullying, there are also reports of suicides where no cause at all is given. This leaves researchers wondering if the numbers concerning suicide and bullying are truly an accurate representation of the problem.
Even with anti-bullying programs in the schools and counselors who have been heavily trained in conflict resolution and peer pressure, there is still much work to be done. Constantly implementing new programs that will provide support for both the victim as well as the bully are needed if situations are going to be resolved. Students who believe they need help in dealing with a bully are encouraged to talk to a member of the faculty or their parents.
Recognizing and Helping People Who May Be Suicide Risks
In an attempt to reduce bullying and suicide statistics and numbers, it is crucial to keep an eye out for the symptoms of bullying and possible suicide, including:
- Students commenting that the world would be a better place if they had never been born or if they were no longer around
- Students who claim they are no longer able to handle things and that they are tired of trying
- Increased signs of depression
- Thoughts of worthlessness
- Withdrawing from friends and family and avoiding social interaction
- Giving friends and family items that they are extremely fond of
- An increased obsession with death or dying, expressing an interest in what it would be like to die
- Hurting or injuring oneself through dangerous activities or reckless behavior
It is vital for parents and teachers to provide help for those that show one or more of these symptoms by:
- Taking all threats of suicide seriously
- Keeping medication and weapons away from the person
- Encouraging young people to talk about any bullying they are experiencing
- Being included in social networks and knowing the friend circles of young people
- Speaking to school authorities about any bullying issues being witnessed
It is also imperative that the bullies receive counseling as well. Every situation must be assessed on its own merit. There is a distinct possibility that the bully is also a suicide risk, especially if they have trouble understanding why they feel and act the way they do. Coming to terms with their demons can be just as difficult for them as the victim having to come to grips with being attacked.
Share these bullying and suicide statistics now and teach children and young people about the potential consequences of bullying.