According to reporting by the Centers for Disease Control in 2014, most youth involved in bullying don’t display suicidal behavior. They do, however concede that teenage suicide and bullying are rising public health issues, and that there is a link between bullying and suicide-related behavior. Unfortunately, teenage suicide rates due to bullying are not available because it’s difficult to attribute teenage suicide singularly to bullying. There are typically other factors which affect a person’s suicidal tendency.
- Emotional instability
- Exposure to violence in the home, on television, or video games
- Struggles with family dynamics
- Social or romantic problems
- Dislike of school and feeling of non-belonging
- Substance abuse, including drugs and alcohol
- Peer differences, including physical and intellectual challenges
- Feeling of having no one to turn to for guidance with the above problems
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) say that bullying is aggressive behavior toward one person by another. Sibling rivalry isn’t usually grouped into the “bullying” category. Conflict between dating partners isn’t considered dating either. The CDC indicates that the aggressor displays a force of power over the victim and that it’s usually repetitive. Bullying is harmful or distressing and can cause long-term damage, either physically or emotionally. Physical, verbal and emotional bullying have been around for centuries, but new forms are developing as our culture evolves.
Physical bullying involves aggressive acts by an instigator against another person who is perceived as weak. Kicking and punching are common types of physical bullying.
Verbal bullying is the use of language to belittle another person. Teasing and antagonizing are forms of verbal bullying. Sarcasm is prominent in verbal bullying. The bullying is meant to hurt another’s feelings in order cause humiliation.
Emotional bullying is the deliberate alienation of a person from a group. For example, a group of teenagers excludes a single person from sitting at their lunch table. That teen goes to table after table and is repeatedly rejected. This often leads to loneliness and isolation and can cause depression.
As the technological world continues to develop, cyber-bullying has been created and continues to evolve. It’s common for teens to carry and use smartphones. Most have access to a computer and to a plethora of social media outlets which are great hosts for cyber-bullying. It combines the verbal and emotional bullying, but to a larger audience and into a media that isn’t going away soon.
Teacher bullying is another form of bullying that is often overlooked. This is educational bullying. It’s when a student gets singled out and chastised by a teacher. Perhaps the student is late to class often, or he speaks out of turn, doesn’t use manners, forgets his homework or pens and paper. Maybe the teacher doesn’t like the way the student dresses, or maybe she just doesn’t like his name. The teacher outwardly acknowledges the student’s weaknesses or learning differences in front of the other students. It’s a show of power, “This is MY classroom!”. The student doesn’t report it to his parents or to administration primarily because he doesn’t feel he has the support at home or from the school staff. The student fears the teacher will retaliate against the student by giving an unfair grade. This is defeating to the student and the teacher wins.
For more information on bullying, look into the site, StopBullying.gov for access to U.S. Government information on bullying topics.
In 2009 the CDC reported that suicide was the 10th leading cause of death among persons over age 10 in the United States (36,891 deaths). In youth between 15 and 24, suicide was the third leading cause of death.
Causes of Teenage Suicide
Rarely is a single isolated event the primary cause for suicide. An event such as loss of a loved one or bullying by peers may trigger suicidal behavior, but there are typically other underlying factors which increase an individual’s suicidal tendencies. Underlying factors may be mood disorders, substance abuse, chronic illness, and being members of the LGBT populations.
Bullying is one of those isolated events being studied as a trigger toward suicidal behavior. It’s currently considered a major public health concern as a result of the number of school shootings in recent years thought to be directly related to bullying.
The first National Strategy for Suicide Prevention was issued in 2001 by U.S. Surgeon General David Satcher. In 2012 U.S. Surgeon General Regina M. Benjamin, MD, MBA, also co-leader of the National Strategy for Suicide Prevention Task Force, updated the initial strategy because of the alarming increase in the suicide rates in the United States. Several achievements toward suicide prevention were made as a result of the National Strategies. The task force enacted the Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act. They created the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (800-273-TALK/8255) and they established the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. The National Strategy endeavors to continue developments toward the prevention of suicide. They will continue to look at the relationship between suicide and mental illness, trauma, violence and substance abuse.
Key Facts About Suicide:
- Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US, higher than the homicide rate.
- Over 33,000 Americans die from suicide each year.
- Over a million people in the past year have attempted suicide.
- Over 15 percent of U.S. high school students gave suicide serious consideration.
- Nearly 8 percent of US high schoolers have attempted suicide in the past year.
What Can You Do?
Help Prevent Bullying
Be able to recognize bullying. Talk to your teen. Often they’re embarrassed or ashamed because bullying is humiliating. Talking about it to a parent or teacher is like re-living the horror. Recognize and be open to the signs of a teen who’s being bullied. Talk with school administrators, teachers, and counselors about your teen’s attitude toward and interaction with peers. Remember that bullies will most often bully when they feel they are the person with authority. They won’t bully others when parents or school administrators are around. Asking teachers or school administrators outright if they’re witnessing bullying will be ineffective because they typically don’t see it. Learn to ask the right people the right questions. Most importantly, let your teen know you’re on their side and you’ll stand behind them when they have social issues. Validate their problems as real, no matter how trivial they seem to you.
Educate your teen about bullying. Explain what it is and what to do if they experience it firsthand or if they see someone else being bullied. Teach your teen not to be the bully. Find ways early on to stress the impact of bullying on other people.
Understand and recognize some of the common reasons that teens commit suicide. What many adults may see as trivial may be the trigger that pushes the teen to suicidal behavior. These events include major disappointments, rejection, failure, loss of a family member, boyfriend or girlfriend, failing a major exam. These can be crippling for some teens and they may not see these as temporary. They fail to see that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem.
- Changes in personality and mood such as becoming hostile or overly sad
- Withdrawal from activities they typically enjoy
- Weight gain or loss, appetite gain or loss
- Sleep issues, too much or too little
- Lack of interest in personal hygiene and appearance
- Loss of focus and decline in academic performance
- Substance use or abuse
It’s important to note that if a teen is suffering from any of these symptoms, it’s not a sure way of determining that he is suicidal. Additionally, many of these signs aren’t easily recognizable. One of the biggest and most obvious signs of suicidal behavior is giving or throwing away their personal effects, especially things they cherish. They’re saying goodbye. Open your communication with anyone who is suspected of suicidal tendencies or exhibiting suicidal behavior. Sometimes just knowing someone cares, or knowing that someone has noticed them or their problems helps them turn things around. Any talk of suicide or death should be taken very seriously. Many who commit suicide talked about it beforehand, but not even half had a medical diagnosis of mental illness. One-third of teens who commit suicide have made previous attempts and should therefore be watched closely.