Approximately, 15 to 20 per cent of middle school children are bullied
Suicide is the second largest cause of death in students aged 15 to 24 and the fourth largest amongst children aged 10 to 14 in the United States. Some factors that contribute to this alarming rate include the pressure that children are under these days, media sensationalising suicide and easy availability of suicidal means.
Approximately, 15 to 20 per cent of middle school children are bullied. With the wide spread use of the Internet and social media, cyber bullying is also on the rise. Bullied children have long lasting effects and develop behavioural, social and emotional issues. These children are also prone to be anxious, depressed, suicidal and exhibit somatic symptoms. Bullied children will experience a disconnect from school and friends.
Studies have found a link between bullying and suicide that especially peaks in middle school. Other factors that contribute to risk of suicide include low self-esteem, low assertiveness and lack of problem solving skills. The American Association for Suicide Prevention states that relationship between bullying and suicide is quite complex. Bullying does not cause suicide, but can be a contributing factor that might push that child over the edge.
There are many myths with regards to suicide. Probably one of the most harmful ones is that if one asks a child about suicide they may actually be planting the idea in their minds. This is not true and on the contrary is encouraged. Other myths are that suicide is destined, it occurs without warnings, and that there is no relationship between suicide and bullying or suicide and self-injury and that students who talk about suicide do not actually carry it out.
Most children hesitate to report bullying to adults because they feel they will not get help. It is essential that children form connections with adults especially at school where a lot of the bullying takes place. School staff should be trained to deal with the bully and support for victims. Schools also need to implement strong bully prevention programmes. The World Health Organisation (WHO) highlights protective factors for preventing suicide among youth. Some include family cohesion and stability, helping youth develop coping and problem-solving skills, build a positive self-worth and impulse control and form meaningful connections. Additionally, academic success and meaningful extra-curricular activities and strong peer relationships also help. A school environment that promotes health and encourages students to reach out for help can help prevent suicide among youth.
The writer is a Licensed Mental health counselor from Florida, USA and a certified School Counselor from Massachusetts, USA. She is also a Certified Distance Counselor