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Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.Allan Schwartz, Ph.D.
Dr. Schwartz's Weblog

Bullying and Suicidal Ideation Linked Among Children

Allan N. Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D. Updated: Jul 18th 2008

 A very troubling finding was reported by researchers at the Yale School of Medicine in the International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health. The report summarized findings from 13 nations. According to the findings there may be a link between bullying and suicidal ideation in children and adolescents.

While there are limitations to the study, as, for example, that it is not yet know whether there is a link between bullying and actual suicide among children and teens, future studies are under way to further clarify these types of issues.

One of the factors that the study pointed to is the tendency of adults to dismiss bullying as a harmless prank. As Dr. Dombeck has written about elsewhere on this site, bullying is neither harmless nor something that should be dismissed as childish pranks. Instead, we know for a fact that bullying has devastating consequences for people into their adulthood.

Interestingly, one of the facts that came to light in this study was the fact that suicidal ideation was prevalent no only among the children targeted for bullying but among the bullies themselves. This is important because I believe it is important not to vilify or demonize youngsters who bully but to understand what types of serious problems led them to become aggressive and harmful to others.

As I read this article I wondered about where the parents are of all of these children, both bullies and the bullied. Parents are supposed to be the socializing agents of children. In other words, parents are supposed to orient children towards the responsibilities they will have to face as responsible adults. In addition, parents are supposed to protect their children, interceding and acting on their behalf when things happen at school and elsewhere. Is this not happening?

I read a related study recently that reported that the children who avoid going to school often do so because they are fearful. This finding is hardly surprising in light of the information about bullying. It is important to emphasize the fact that these are not American problems. Instead, the issue of bullying and avoiding school exist in nations around the world.

Is it any surprise, then, that the World Health Organization reports that Major Depression is already epidemic around the globe and will become worse in years to come?

What are your thoughts about these issues and your ideas about possible solutions?

Allan Schwartz, LCSW, Ph.D.

Readers who live in the Boulder, Colorado metro area, or in Southwest Florida may contact Dr. Schwartz for face-to-face consultation. He is also available for psychotherapy through Skype video for those who are not in Florida or Colorado. He can be reached via email at dransphd@aol.com for details.

    Reader Comments
    Discuss this issue below or in our forums.

    Progress? - Ruth Renwick Lax - Oct 27th 2010

    I write from the UK where we have a similar situation.  My impression is that in the past (pe 1970's) where there was poor nurturing and discipline at home the school would provide order and discipline which engenders self-descipline and this produced young people with self discipline. Today schools, in UK anyway, seem to have absolved themselves of keeping order, there is a lot of talk about respect etc and listening to the children - and this is laudible -  however children also have a right to expect guidance from adults.

    The parents!?! - Misty - May 7th 2009

    Yes, there is a sad reality that some parents are not really parents at all, but rather breeders. I truly feel for the children who have found themselves amongst these people. What is worse is that our society tends to punish those children for something that has been learned or neglected by the responsible parties. This is not to imply that everyone does this, but we cannot deny this does happen.

    I know some people feel that it is not fair to have to "parent" another child, but life is not fair. Get over it!!!

    Now, for those of us who parents not only her own child, but also other children who are in need, I commend you!

    As a parent who is right smack dab in the middle of this very thing happening to her own child, I have lost much faith in the school system. I have  met with the principal, vice principal, teacher, and mediation counselors over ten times during the first semester alone. They were completely useless, and it is my belief that they have actually worsened the situation.

    When I contacted the police department after my son came home with a boot print across his cheek and eye, they talked to the parents of the other children. Then, they stated that I had to take the parents to small claims court - This too has proven to be useless.

    In our city, the police department does not involve themselves with the elementary schools unless there are drugs and/or weapons (specifically guns - knives don't count) before they involve themselves. --- Sickening!

    I have had the safe schools coordinator teach my son self-defense after nothing else worked... I even put him into counseling (in which the therapist has claimed mismanagement on the part of the school as the key reason this was happening). However, short of hiring a lawyer willing to take on the school district, I have felt my hands were tied.

    What makes this even worse, they have refused to change his class after one of his classmates suggested he kill himself because everyone hates him (which has now led to multiple suicidal ideations backed by a plan)... His request for school transfer was also denied.

    If any of you find yourself in this situation, I pray you have the strength and stamina for the battle in which you face... Best of luck and God bless!

    ~Misty~

    Schools AND parents need to take bullying seriously - Lisa C. - Mar 26th 2009

    I'll always regret watching my 7 year old son fall apart while he was teased in school.  I met with the teachers and administrators repeatedly - sought outside counseling - trying to get them to stop the teasing and his emotional downslide.  It wasn't until my son threatened someone else (became the bully) that I reacted strongly and removed him from school.  My focus changed from fighting the school to helping him heal.  My son felt that everyone was out to get him and that no one was protecting him (including his parents who couldn't stop the teasing), so he needed to fight back to protect himself.  I so wish I had removed him sooner.  I could not get the school to take the teasing as anything more than 'typical kids stuff.'  By the time I removed my son from school at age 7, he was talking about wishing he was dead and clearly depressed.  He ultimately died by suicide shortly after turning 15.  That early experience dogged him - and I wonder how much of that played into his ultimate death. 

    Bullying and Bullied - Allan N. Schwartz, PhD - Aug 6th 2008

    Hi Dan,

    Actually, I appreciate your sarcasm and frustration as expressed in your comment. That is because I agree. Of course I know the answer. The idea was to try and get others to think about it. Where are those parents who are supposed to inercede and put a stop to bullying and protect their children. Some parents do and I know a few of them. Others seem to dismiss it. I ask these latter, WHY??

    Dr. Schwartz

    You have got to be kidding - Dan - Aug 6th 2008

    I have read this article and am shocked to see the following paragraph - "As I read this article I wondered about where the parents are of all of these children, both bullies and the bullied. Parents are supposed to be the socializing agents of children. In other words, parents are supposed to orient children towards the responsibilities they will have to face as responsible adults. In addition, parents are supposed to protect their children, interceding and acting on their behalf when things happen at school and elsewhere. Is this not happening?"

    Where has the author been?  Of course this is not happening!!  Some parents (if you can call them that) give birth to a child and let them fend for themselves.  They do not correct their actions or guide them towards a successful life.  Have you seen these kids who run around stores and restaurants?  Yes parents are SUPPOSED to orient children towards responsibilites but so many sit them in front on Jerry Springer and learn their moral values from movies and tv!!  Then the schools are supposed to work with children like these who curse at the teacher.  Oh fun!!!

    Odd and Weak - Someguy - Jul 27th 2008

    I think it's fairly obvious that if you're perceived odd and/or weak in an adolescent, especially in the school system, that gives a child the right to demean, harass and bully whom they consider the 'other' and not like 'them'. Makes you wonder when bigoted mindsets start to form?

     Our society is developing an existentialist attitude about life, and supposedly it's exaggerated amongst 'our' children. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existentialism

    Emphasizing action, freedom, and decision as fundamental, existentialists oppose themselves to rationalism and positivism. That is, they argue against definitions of human beings as primarily rational. Rather, existentialists look at where people find meaning. Existentialism asserts that people actually make decisions based on what has meaning to them rather than what is rational.

    We are narcissistic. Bullying amplifies our narcissism.

    Not new - - Jul 22nd 2008
    I went to a private school in the 1970's all the things you are talking about were going on back then. This is no new trend. I felt deeply depressed by these experiences as an adolescent. This is a situation in which adults should not just say things like "when you get older, you will realize this was not a big deal" I say this because, if it were happening to them right now, these adults would probably be having the same feelings.

    'Bullying and Suicidal Ideation Linked Among Children' - morshaldock - Jul 22nd 2008

    I read a related study recently that reported that the children who avoid going to school often do so because they are fearful. This finding is hardly surprising in light of the information about bullying.

    *****************************************

    morshaldock

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