In the United Kingdom, Anti bullying Week 2017 is being held this week. I want to acknowlege it because there is such a strong link between bullying and suicide.
In recent years, a series of bullying-related suicides have drawn attention to the issue, and the statistics on bullying and suicide are alarming:
- Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the CDC.
- For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts.
- Over 14 percent of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7 percent have attempted it.
- Bully victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University
- A study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among young people are related to bullying
- 10 to 14 year old girls may be at even higher risk for suicide, according to the study above
- Bully-related suicide can be connected to any type of bullying, including physical bullying, emotional bullying, cyberbullying, and sexting, or circulating suggestive or nude photos or messages about a person.
Adult bullying can have consequences as severe as children bullying other children, up to and including victim suicide.
Learn to recognize bullying. It can take many forms:
If you are not the one being bullied, but you witness the behavior or you hear about it - remember that it is often far easier for you to confront the bully than it is for the person who is being bullied.
Intervene when you see a bully, and tell them that their behavior is unacceptable.
Here are some ways to stop bullying behavior:
- Stand up for people who are bullied. Bullies often want an audience and approval. Specifically tell them that their behavior is not acceptable and that they are not welcome to be around you if they continue to behave this way toward you or another person.
- If you are not the person being bullied, let the victim know that you are on their side and will speak up for or with them.
- Tell other people that the bullied person needs to be supported.
- Talk to adults, teachers, HR Departments, Supervisors, etc. Enlist the support of those who have any control over ensuring that environments are safe.
- Do not tell the bullied person to get over it, let it go, or accept the behavior. Bullying is not acceptable and it is not the responsibility of the person being harmed to fix or change the situation.
- Stop the behaviors.
- Ask what you can do to rectify a situation.
- Commit to not engaging in the same behaviors.
- Ask others to point out to you when they see it happening.
- If it is difficult for you to stop the behaviors, get professional help.
If acts of intentional cruelty are repeated more than once, they fit the definition of bullying.
Note that many schools, businesses and even states have laws against bullying and intentional harassment. Bullying can lead to suspension or expulsion from schools, professional demotions or termination, restraining orders, other legal consequences, even jail time.
For the bullied person, quality of life, self esteem, and sense of overall safety can all be severely compromised. All of these things, when heightened, can lead to suicidal thinking and attempts. Again, bullying can be a significant contributing factor of suicide among young people.
Remember, advising a bullied child or adult to just ignore the behavior may not be helpful and can actually contribute to the shame felt by the victim. Intervention is important, and providing active support to the person being bullied is critical.
Pledge to speak up and support those you see being bullied, today.
There are many excellent websites that provide more information on bullying. You can find a short compilation of some of those organizations, here.
There are also a number of excellent books and movies about bullying. At present, Netflix is streaming the movie, A Girl Like Her - a movie that depicts the connection between bullying and suicide.
Together, people can make a difference in the fight against bullying.