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Bullying, our #2 epidemic, has been receiving a huge amount of press recently.  Every day I'm posting articles, news reports, studies and stats on our Facebook Page.  Every day there is another report of a suicide to post.  Most of these are teens, but some are as young as 8 or 9. This is a senseless loss of young lives. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people, resulting in about 4,400 deaths per year, according to the CDC.  For every suicide among young people, there are at least 100 suicide attempts.  Over 14% of high school students have considered suicide, and almost 7% have attempted it.

Bullycide is a term that has been recently coined to put a name on suicide because of bullying.  Bullying victims are between 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than non-victims, according to studies by Yale University.  A study in Britain found that at least half of suicides among our youth are bullying related.  According to statistics reported by ABC News, nearly 30% of students are either bullies or victims of bullying.  Other stats we have been seeing for several years indicate that 160,000 kids stay home from school every day because of fear of being bullied. Over 13 million children/teens will be bullied in a given year.

Because of the increase in the number of suicides attributed to bullying, we now have the attention of the media, governments from small communities to federal, law enforcement, and the educational community. Who are the most vulnerable groups that are subjected to bullying and often to suicide?  Research has identified those with disabilities, weight problems, either too heavy or too thin, and those from racial or religious minorities.  We are now seeing reports of students with autism or allergies being picked on and bullied, and i'm sure there are others.  Another vulnerable group is those who identify as LGBTQ or are perceived to be LGBTQ.  

You may remember Tyler Clementi, the gay Rutgers student whose roommate filmed him in a compromising situation and shared it on the Internet.  The night before Tyler's suicide was announced, Rutgers University launched a two-year civility project.  This was in response to the research that had been emerging supporting social skills, or social competence training, at young ages, as the missing link in bullying prevention.  I would argue that college age is much too late to address the issues of rudeness, lack of courtesy and civility that lead to bullying.

Parents need to be aware of some warning signs to look out for:

  • Kids, especially teens, are always connected to friends, either by text, social media, or in person.  If they begin cancelling plans and stopping communication, investigate.
  • Changes in behavior, even small changes, can be red flags that need to be addressed.
  • If your usually happy, well-adjusted child suddenly becomes sullen, isolated and withdrawn from family, school, and friends, pay attention.
  • Loss of appetite and changed sleep patterns are also signs that your child might be depressed enough to consider suicide.
  • If your child begins giving away prized possessions, please get help.

I'm reminded of a moving story I read recently about a teen who had been bullied relentlessly in school.  As he was walking home from school carrying everything out of his locker, another boy stopped and asked if he could help him. That boy knew that there had been bullying in this kid's life.  He befriended him, invited him to join his group of popular friends, and they became best friends.  The bullying stopped.  The bullied friend went on to be the valedictorian of their high school class. In his speech at graduation he told the story of the kindness of the boy who had helped him the day he was carrying all his books home.  He had planned on killing himself that day and didn't want his mother to have to clean out his locker.  

You never know how your act of kindness can affect another's life; it may even save it.

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