Bullying Is Leading to More Youth Suicides

February 11-18, 2019 Is Teen Suicide Prevention Week

In the past two-and-a-half weeks, three youth across the nation - an 11-year-old girl in New Mexico and two 13-year-old boys in Ohio and Michigan - took their own lives due to the hopelessness and isolation they experienced as a result of bullying, both in person and through social media. All of these news reports indicated that the students' schools were not responsive - either not immediately or not at all - when the staff was informed of the bullying behavior and the impact it was having on the youth.

"This is a tragic trend that needs to stop immediately. Children, especially adolescents, are going through difficult changes in their lives even if bullying were not a factor. The presence of bullying and its impact on youths' mental health underscore the critical importance of initiatives to prevent bullying; immediate investigations into claims of bullying; and prompt access to mental health services for students, both those who exhibit bullying behaviors and those who are victims of bullying," said Debra L. Wentz, PhD, President and Chief Executive Officer, New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies (NJAMHAA).

Bullying can be a significant factor in youths' depression, which is highly prevalent among adolescents. Other factors include peer pressure, academic expectations and the physical changes they are experiencing. Approximately 20% of adolescents struggle with depression and more than 8% of adolescents suffer from depression that lasts a year or more, as reported on MedicineNet.com. Signs and symptoms of depression include changes in youths' attitudes, emotions and behaviors that can lead to difficulties at school or home, in social activities or in other areas of life.

"Some of the signs and symptoms could be the normal ups and downs that adolescents - and, in fact, people of all ages - are bound to experience. However, an evaluation with a mental health professional or primary care provider should be sought if the symptoms persist for an extended period of time and are overwhelming for the individual," Dr. Wentz said.

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