Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Does Bullying Cause Suicide?

We’ve all seen the headlines and read the heart-wrenching stories of bullied kids who took their own lives. Yet according to a recent study by the Cyberbullying Research Center, bullying in and of itself does not lead to suicide. Other contributing factors need to be present for a child to be driven to the edge. “We are not aware of a single case where experience with bullying and cyberbullying was found to be the sole cause of an adolescent suicide,” say co-directors of the Cyberbullying Research Center, Justin Patchin and Sameer Hinduja. According to their soon-to-be released study, bullying can cause kids to feel depressed and harbor suicidal thoughts, but unless other factors are present, bullying alone will not drive a child to end his life.

More at risk are kids who are already depressed, as well as those experiencing social isolation, trauma, or major family issues. Patchin and Hinduja found that some kids do have the resilience to withstand bullying. Yes, bullying hurts, and, yes, it causes deep anguish, but certain kids are more able to bounce back from it. A child going through very difficult times who also experiences bullying may be completely devastated by it, and with that devastation can come the feeling that any way out is better than continuing to endure the bullying.

This is why we all need to be part of the solution to bullying, and the most important thing we can do is to never look the other way when bullying takes place. Kids who are bullied need to be both protected and reminded that they still have power in life. Bullying can strip kids of their sense of power, and along with it their self-worth. This, combined with a sense that the bullying will never end, is why kids who are bullied often get depressed, even desperate. But it doesn’t have to be this way. By being upstanders who intervene on behalf of kids who are bullied and offer them support, we can start to break this vicious cycle.

If you know a young person who's being bullied, beyond intervening and offering support, here's something to pass on:

7 Steps to Take If You're Being Bullied

- Tell someone. Telling someone you’re being bullied isn’t tattling. It’s a necessary step to ending the bullying. You have a right to be emotionally and physically safe, and if someone’s harming you, it’s critical that you reach out to someone who can help.

- Stick around other kids. Many kids who bully pick on kids who are isolated. If you have difficulty making friends, talk to a parent, teacher, or school counselor and find out what you can do. Being around other kids and adults is a form of protection because kids who bully don’t want to get caught.

- Don’t try to handle it alone. Ask at least one peer for support.

- Look the person who picks on you square in the eye and firmly tell him or her to leave you alone. Then walk away with your head held high. Rehearse doing this with a trusted person. The more you practice, the less difficult it will be in real life.

- If there’s cyberbullying, try not to read mean or threatening things directed at you. Instead, save the evidence and show it to an adult who can help.

- Keep asking for help if the bullying continues. Don’t stop until you get the help you deserve.

- Make sure to engage in things that give you back your energy -- sports, music, activities with friends or family, creative pursuits. All of these will strengthen you from the inside out and replenish the good feelings that bullying may be taking away.

- Remember your worth and value at all times, and if you forget, seek out someone who can remind you of the valuable person you are.

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