Tipsheet: Detecting Bullying and Risk of Suicide

October 22, 2014

Whether by traditional means or via cyberspace, bullying and peer victimization put adolescents at increased risk for suicide, especially when comorbid psychopathology is present.

Bullying and peer victimization put adolescents at increased risk for suicide, especially when comorbid psychopathology is present. Findings from cross-sectional studies suggest the existence of differential risk profiles by sex as well as by the frequency and severity of the bullying: female bullies are at increased risk for suicide, even when their bullying is infrequent; males appear to be at increased risk for suicidal ideation, but only when they are bullied frequently.

TIPSHEET: DETECTING BULLYING AND RISK OF SUICIDE

ASSESSMENT

■ School-based screening can be implemented using parent and teacher symptom checklists

■ Victims of bullying consistently exhibit more depressive symptoms than nonvictims

■ Victims have high levels of suicidal ideation and are more likely to attempt suicide than nonvictims

■Mental health practitioners should understand the relationship between bullying/cyberbullying behavior and suicide

■ Assess childhood bullying using the child’s self-report as well as reports from peers, parents, and teachers

■ Children who are frequently involved in bullying behaviors should be screened for psychiatric problems

EDUCATION

■ Offer psychoeducation about “healthy” online behavior; advise parents to supervise their children’s online behavior

■ Be cautious with awareness messaging making sure that it does not overemphasize the link between cyberbullying and suicide

■ The education system and school health care service in mid-childhood are of great importance for the early detection of bullying and prevention of later adverse outcomes

■ Familiarize yourself with techniques to stop bullying

■ Teach victims the behaviors needed to put an end to bullying

■ It is important that students understand that there is always hope to stop the situation

■When adaptive coping skills and hope for change are not presented, students may feel powerless and hopeless, which increases their risk of suicide  

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES

■ Bullies2Buddies: The Golden Rule System

■ Sources of Strength Suicide Prevention Program

■ A Fun, Poweful Technique for Teaching Children How to Stop Being Bullied by Doris Greenberg, MD, and Israel Kalman, MS

[Adapted from "Bullying and Suicide" by Anat Brusnstein Klomek, PhD, Andre Sourander, MD, and Madelyn S. Gould, PhD, MPH. This Tipsheet was originally published on September 12, 2013 and has since been updated.]