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Study: Bullying victims more than twice as likely to consider suicide

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Bullying victims are more than twice as likely to contemplate suicide than other children, and more than twice as likely to attempt suicide, according to a recent study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics.

The study found cyberbullying was worse, with kids who were cyberbullied being around three times more likely to think about suicide.

The study analyzed data on almost 285,000 people.

Numbers show as many as one in five teenagers is involved in some type of bullying. And almost half of kids in grades four to 12 reported being bullied within the previous month. Nearly one-third said they were bullies themselves.

Suicide is now a leading cause of death among adolescents, and affects both victims and perpetrators alike.

The findings "establish with more certainty that bullying is related to suicide thoughts and attempts," says study lead author Mitch van Geel, a researcher with the Institute of Education and Child Studies at Leiden University in the Netherlands.

"And we establish that these results hold for boys and girls, and older and younger children,” HealthDay reports.

Bullying can include physical threats and attacks, teasing, name-calling and spreading rumors.

Researchers found that cyberbullying, which could include sending mean text messages or emails, rumors sent by email or posted on social networking sites, and embarrassing pictures, videos, websites, or fake profiles, may be more harmful than traditional bullying because kids have a more difficult time escaping it.

According to the federal Department of Health and Human Services, cyberbullying can happen 24-hours a day, seven days a week and reach a kid even when he or she is alone.

Previous studies had reported that cyberbullying could be just as bad as traditional bullying.

“This might be because with cyberbulling, victims may feel they’ve been denigrated in front of a wider audience,” study leader Mitch van Geel said in an interview posted on the JAMA Pediatrics website. In addition, he said, “material can be stored online, which may cause victims to relive the denigrating experience more often.”

The Los Angeles Times reports that when researchers broke down the data according to whether children where bullies or victims, those who had been on both sides of things were more than twice as likely to consider killing themselves than kids who had nothing to do with bullying.

“Peer victimization is related to suicidal ideation for older as well as younger children, boys as well as girls, and victims as well as bully-victims,” they wrote.

The study recommends supporting programs that teach kids to be more than bystanders when they witness bullying. Also valuable, authors say, are programs for parents and educators on identifying and preventing bullying.

"Make children feel that they can safely talk to teachers about bullying, and make children feel that bullying is a problem that will be taken seriously," van Geel said.

Minnesota is among the states considering changes to its anti-bullying law.

The state Senate last week passed a bill that would require school districts to into investigate and track bullying cases and train teachers and some staff members on how to respond to and prevent bullying among students.

The bill would replace Minnesota’s current anti-bullying law, which has been widely criticized as weak.

The bill next heads to the House.

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