This article is courtesy of WellSpan Summit Health
CHAMBERSBURG, PA (Sept. 6, 2019) – Data shows that youth who report frequently bullying others and those who report being frequently bullied are both at increased risk for suicide-related behavior.
September is Suicide Awareness Month, and as part of the priority to lead the conversation on suicide prevention, WellSpan Health is encouraging parents to remind their children to spread kindness instead of rumors in an effort to stop bullying and help prevent suicide.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, bullying is any unwanted, aggressive behavior, commonly seen among school-aged children, that results in a real or seeming imbalance of power.
“Bullying becomes apparent when one person or group appears to have mental or emotional leverage over another,” said Candace Rutherford, director of outpatient behavioral health services and licensed clinical social worker with WellSpan Behavioral Health. “This doesn’t include isolated events that happen once or twice. Bullying is habitual.”
Bullying can include verbal or physical attacks, threats, exclusion and rumors. Over the years bullying traditionally occurred in person. Today’s use of social media platforms and cell phones means bullying is happening more and more via technology.
The Role of Technology
“In a lot of ways, technology makes it even easier for bullying to occur,” said Rutherford. “People can be empowered and often feel safer from repercussions when they use technology versus being in person.”
How can parents know if their child is being bullied online? Simply asking the question often uncovers a problem. According to the Second Youth Internet Safety Survey, published in the journal Pediatrics, 68 percent of cyberbullying victims spoke up about their harassment to friends, parents, or other authority figures.
Knowing there’s a problem gives parents a chance to provide guidance and help prevent future incidents.
Strength in Numbers
One of the primary ways to shut down in-person bullying is surprisingly simple: Stick with friends.
“It’s easy to pick on one person, but it’s a lot tougher for a bully to go head-to-head with a group of people,” said Rutherford. “If friends stick together and support one another, it limits the opportunity for a bully to pursue his or her target.”
There are several ways adults can help stop bullying, according to StopBullying.gov:
- Intervene immediately.
- Separate the children involved. Make sure everyone involved is safe.
- Meet any immediate medical or mental health needs.
- Stay calm. Reassure those involved in front of the other children.
- Model respectful behavior when you intervene.
- Teaching, modeling and rewarding kindness from a young age can help prevent bullying. It helps children learn how to better interact with others.
Research shows that when elementary students perform several kindness acts a week, there is an increased level of acceptance of their peers. Below are some ways parents can help instill kindness in their children.
- Take part in gratitude activities.
- Include your child in volunteer activities or service learning.
- Have children develop ways to help others.
- Facilitate respectful conversations.
- Generate open-ended discussion questions.
- Encourage teamwork.
- Teach and model how to name and express emotions.
Teens: Suicide Warning Signs
According to the Jason Foundation, a national organization dedicated to teen suicide awareness and prevention, four out of five young people who attempt suicide give clear warning signs.
While some of the signs listed below don’t necessarily mean someone is suicidal, they do indicate the person may be suffering. They might need help in order to avoid suicide in the future.
Don’t Ignore These
- Suicide threats. These can be direct statements such as, “I’m going to kill myself,” or expressions of suicidal feelings. For example: “I’d be better off dead”; “I hate my life”; “I won’t be bothering you much longer”; and “You’ll be better off without me around.”
- Depression. One of the leading causes of suicide attempts is a history of depression or other mental disorders. Symptoms of depression range from lack of hygiene to lack of interest in activities once enjoyed, withdrawal from family and friends, and expressions of hopelessness and despair.
- Anger, increased irritability. Suicide is connected to fighting and unusually irritable behavior.
- Sudden increase or decrease in appetite. A change in how much food a person eats without any obvious explanation (such as working out more) is reason for concern.
- Sudden changes in appearance. If a teen suddenly begins dressing differently or has a change in personal hygiene habits, find out what’s behind the shift. It can be a warning sign.
- Dwindling academic performance. An abrupt drop in grades or sudden lack of interest in school, classes, and grades can signal an emotional or psychological issue.
- Preoccupation with death and suicide. Take note of writing and artwork about death, as well as social media posts and extensive talk about death or dying.
- Previous suicide attempts. One out of three suicide deaths is not the result of an individual’s first attempt.
- Final arrangements. Once they’ve decided to commit suicide, some young people begin saying goodbye to family and friends, giving away favorite possessions, and even making funeral arrangements.