During Suicide Awareness Month, I usually like to bring up issues that pertain to today’s youth. This year, I’d like to raise awareness about the connection between suicidal ideation and bullying. According to one study, youth who experience regular bullying are 2 to 9 times more likely to consider suicide than their peers who do not. While many excellent resources already exist to help identify bullying and put a stop to it, I wanted to share a few insights I’ve gained through my experiences working with youth.

  1. Youth today often don’t get a break from bullying behaviors. Something I haven’t really seen addressed is how accessible bullying can be nowadays. The digital world that youth are a part of gives them almost 24/7 access to interactions, good or bad, that just weren’t available when I was growing up. So many of the youth I work with now talk about texts, instant messages on apps, and online gaming chats as places of bullying. Our youth today often have little opportunity to escape social bullying behavior once it starts.  
  2. Youth who participate in bullying often experience suicidal ideation as well. While we are often quick to recognize that the victims of bullying are negatively impacted and need help, it can be easy to forget that youth who engage in bullying behaviors are just as negatively impacted. They are often isolated from their peers because of their behaviors and lack the support system required to work through their issues. As such, increased suicidal ideation is often shared among bullying perpetrators and needs to be addressed.
  3. Many youths do not report bullying to adults. This one is probably the hardest one to sit with as an adult. Recent evidence shows that many youths do not report being bullied and, in fact, go to great lengths to hide it. While there are many reasons for this, the most harrowing is that adults are often perceived to be of little help. We minimize their experience and tell them they need to “sort it out on their own.” We tell them it isn’t that bad and they just need to grow thicker skin. Even worse, we make the entire situation worse for them by overreacting and embarrassing them or forcing them to sit with their bully and talk it out. I know I’ve had more than one teenager tell me that they don’t want their parents to know what they are going through because they don’t want them to take their phone away or limit access to it. The point is we as adults should be listening to and supporting them through this, which starts by making it a daily practice as we interact with them.

Parents, it is TOUGH to hear that your child is affected by bullying, either as a victim or a perpetrator. It’s even worse to hear they might be considering suicide to solve their problem. If you and your child are going through this, we at Heartland Therapy Connection would like to support you. We can provide individual and family counseling for you as you navigate this difficult terrain. Do not hesitate to reach out and schedule an appointment today at (816) 287-0252. Let us know how we can help!

Leave a Reply