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Bullying during Adolescence Increases Suicide Risk

Updated: Jun 13, 2019

Findings from previous investigators indicate that adolescents who encounter bullying as a victim or participate as a perpetrator are associated with increased suicidal ideation (Arango, Opperman, Gipson, & King, 2016). Various studies suggest that youth who experience bullying during middle adolescence have diminished mental health and are at higher risk for suicide (Wolke, Copeland, Angold, & Costello, 2013). Some studies indicate that bully perpetration predicts subsequent suicidal thoughts and behaviors in adolescence (Klomek et al., 2013), and cause negative psychological consequences that make intervention crucial (Mayes et al., 2014).

Adolescence is a developmentally sensitive time in the lives of children. The transition into and across adolescence is characterized by significant changes in social structure and relationships as they gravitate towards their peers, and become more focused with their social position (Dijkstra, Cillessen, & Borch, 2013; Lam, McHale, & Crouter, 2012).These social changes coincide with increasing rates of depression that begin to escalate in early adolescence, and continue to rise throughout later adolescence (Costello et al., 2003; Hankin et al., 2015).

Adolescents are at a stage in their moral development where they begin to consider others' feelings and think about societal issues of fairness and justice (Yurgelun- Todd, 2007). Both positive and negative peer relationships can significantly impact their social and emotional development. As they search for a sense of identity, exposure to bullying can be particularly harmful (Atkinson & Sturgis, 2003). A study with a sample of Grade 6 students found that victims of bullying reported the highest levels of depression, social anxiety, and loneliness as compared with bullies, and noninvolved youth (Juvonen, Graham, & Schuster, 2003). Leaders that are charged with creating safe environments for our young people need to ask themselves if the current bullying prevention and intervention program being used is helping reduce the prevalence of bullying experiences.

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