Bullying and cyberbullying can profoundly effect a young person’s health and are major risk factors for suicide which is ranked among the top ten causes of death in Western countries. Australia has one of the highest rates of suicide among adolescents in developed countries and it is one of the leading causes of death among Australian teens, second only to motor vehicle accidents (Centre for Adolescent Health 2013). Suicide accounts for 25% of all male and 17% of all female deaths in the 15-25 age range. Sadly, the suicidality of teens who complete suicide is rarely recognised by professionals and therefore, many young people do not receive assistance that may prevent their deaths.
Recent research has linked bullying to suicide and victims of bullying are up to five times more likely to report suicidal thoughts and attempts than non-victimised children. Yet, even when suicidal intentions are disclosed, help may not be forthcoming, and in some cases suicide is actually encouraged online. In November 2008, a young man suicided on live video over the internet. The young man was on a body building forum and began a discussion thread titled “Ask a guy who is gonna OD (again) tonight anything”. Members of the online public forum watched without informing authorities, with some members of the public, including the moderator, encouraging the young man to complete the act.
Education of the risk factors, triggering conditions and warning signs can help identify suicide risk in teens. Children and teens are particularly vulnerable to suicide because of their underdeveloped coping skills, lack of experience and perspective, and high levels of stress and emotions. As such, a collaborative suicide prevention and intervention program is necessary to reduce the loss of life in teens—and we need to be nicer to each other.
Watching for signs of depression or suicide
- Do be open and honest with your teen—keep communication open
- Don’t be judgmental or say ‘get over it’ (an issue you think is small might be insurmountable to your teen)
- Do be aware if your teen withdraws
- Do watch for signs of self-harm
- Do be vigilant for changes in your child’s ‘normal’ behaviours
- Do watch the behaviours of your child’s friendship circles
- Do evaluate any signs of bullying or cyberbullying both given and received
- Do approach authorities, the school and/or Police with any concerns of bullying
- Do not think your child (or anyone for that matter) is attention seeking if they speak of suicide
- Do watch out for your child engaging in dangerous or high-risk behaviours (often people engage in these high-risk behaviours in the hope that death will occur)
- Do not be afraid to ask if he or she is thinking about suicide, or is depressed
- Do not leave the person alone
- Do ask your teen to give you any weapons, objects etc which may cause them harm
- Do take your child to a Counsellor if they are being bullied or are bullying