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Guest Columnist: Dr. Missy, Feelings Helper

Bullying and suicide


Does bullying cause suicide? The new word “bullycide” is being used; however some mental health experts caution this buzzword as an oversimplification of a complex issue.

While bullying is identified as a risk factor for suicide, the majority of youth who are bullied do not commit suicide, and the majority of youth suicides do not name bullying as the reason. Current studies speculate that many factors need to be considered when teens commit suicide after being bullied by peers at school.


Go to the Columbus Dispatch newspaper website and type in the words “bullying and suicide” in Ohio. You will read about Ohio’s youth who committed suicide and left behind notes about bullying or their friends who discussed the bullying horrors the teens endured.


Ohio Information about Suicide


Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people in Ohio between the ages of 15 and 24, according to the Center for Disease Control (CDC). The 2011 Youth Risk Behavioral Report for Ohio reported that 1 in 7 Ohio students said they had seriously considered suicide in the past 12 months. More than 1 in 7 had made a plan to commit suicide in that time and attempting suicide one or more times in the past 12 months was reported by 1 in 11 Ohio students.


House Bill 543, the Jason Flatt Act, mandates public school personnel to complete training in suicide prevention. House Bill 149 designates every September 10th as Ohio Suicide Prevention Day. Both bills were sponsored by Representative Anielski whose

18-year-old son committed suicide.


National Information about Suicide


In 2010, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) formulated an expert panel to explore the relationship between bullying and suicide-related behaviors and to examine the research. Three main themes emerged: (1) bullying is a significant public health problem among youth; (2) there is a strong connection between bullying and suicide-related behaviors, but there are other factors involved like depression and delinquency; and (3) there are public health approaches for prevention.


Research on Bullying and Suicide


The Relationship between Bullying and Suicide: What We Know and What it Means for Schools was released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It summarized the latest research on the relationship between bullying and suicide-related behavior and

included research findings reported in the Journal of Adolescent Health’s 2013 Supplement, “Bullying and Suicide: A Public Health Approach.”


Kaminski and colleagues in the 2009 Journal of Pediatrics reported that youth victimized by their peers were 2.4 times more likely to report suicidal ideation and 3.3 times more likely to report a suicide attempt than youth who reported not being bullied.


Risk factors for victims of bullying included: problems before the bullying, depression or mental health issues, boyfriend or girlfriend relationship problems, substance abuse, prior suicide attempts, emotional distress, sexual abuse, physical abuse, a history of self-harm, and witnessing domestic violence in the home.


Protective factors for victims of bullying included: parent and other adult connectedness, caring friendships with peers, caring teachers, liking school and academic achievements, school and neighborhood safety, and physical activity. Teens with protective factors were less likely to commit suicide after being bullied.


Ohio Resources on Suicide


In 2007, the Ohio Suicide Prevention Foundation funded 56 Suicide Prevention Coalitions covering 65 counties across Ohio. Visit www.ohiospf.org for a list of suicide hotlines by county.


Visit www.speaneohio.org for information on the Suicide Prevention Education Alliance. SPEA has delivered the program, Recognizing Teen Depression and Preventing Suicide, to more than 114,000 students and currently serves 132 Northeast Ohio schools.


Parents, schools, and communities can join together in a county-wide agenda to prevent both bullying and suicide. Schools can partner with community mental health agencies, pediatricians, local health departments, churches, and other organizations.


Dr. Missy, Ph.D., is a feelings helper, child therapist, play therapist, and child trauma therapist. She provides therapeutic services at Affirmations, Columbus, Ohio.


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