Bullied teens at higher risk for depression and suicidal thoughts

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Bullied teens at higher risk for depression and suicidal thoughts
Bullied teens at higher risk for depression and suicidal thoughts

Teens who are the victims of bullying are more likely to report severe depression, are considering suicide, and carry weapons to school say several studies by the North Shore-Long Island Jewish (Lij) Health System.

“Teens can be the victim of face-to-face bullying in school, electronic bullying outside of the classroom and dating violence,” said Andrew Adesman, MD, the senior investigator of all three studies. “Each of these experiences are associated with a range of serious adverse consequences.”

The first study reported that depression and suicide was much more common in students who were victims of cyberbullying or bullying. “Although cyberbullying may not pose the same physical threat that face-to-face bullying does, it can be far more hurtful since it can spread like wildfire throughout a student body and take on a life of its own,” Dr. Adesman said.

The studies were based on data from the 2013 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, a biannual questionnaire by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. The survey is designed to provide a nationally representative sample of teens in grades nine to 12. Tammy Pham, the principle investigator said that it was “very important to create more effective strategies to prevent bullying in all forms.” She said that students needed to feel safe both inside and outside of school.

The second study looked at how the victimization of high school students impacts their school attendance and weapon carrying behaviors. The investigators found that physical or sexual dating violence, and bullying were associated with students carrying weapons or not attending school. “Tragically, teens who were victimized in more than one way were especially likely to carry a weapon to school or skip school altogether,” said Dr. Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at Cohen Children’s Medical Center in New Hyde Park, NY.

Bullying and dating violence are more common than many may think, says Alexis Tchaconas, principle investigator of the study. “The CDC reports that 11 percent of high school students experience dating violence, and 20 percent report being bullied,” Tchanconas said. “Greater prevention efforts are needed to protect the mental health and physical well-being of our teens.”

The third study analyzed teens who had been victims of bullying in a twelve month period and whether there were gender differences associated with carrying a weapon to school. Boys were more likely to carry a weapon than girls. Male victims were less than twice more likely to carry a weapon than male non-victims.

Girls who were bullied were three times more likely to carry a weapon than girls who were not victimized. “Girls who have been victimized are much more likely to carry a weapon; unfortunately, the CDC data does not tell us if this is for their own protection or to seek revenge,” said Dr. Adesman, the senior investigator. “Effective strategies need to be developed to eliminate bullying if we want our teens to be safe and enjoy their adolescence.”

“Bullying and dating violence are too important to ignore as risk factors for suicide – the third leading cause of death in teens,” Dr. Adesman said.

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