Youth suicide, bullying far too widespread


Today, we have a tragic story on page 1, the story of a local young man who, according to authorities, took his own life earlier this week.

Generally, we don’t run articles on suicides unless there is some sort of additional factor involved, such as the suicide took place in a public place, or it happened as part of another crime, things along those lines. We made an exception to our rule today for another reason — according to several local authorities, the youth took his own life, at least in part, in response to bullying he encountered.

It’s hard for us to do this, to write that story and this editorial. The incident itself is heartbreaking, even more so if the youth felt he was being driven to this because of bullying. The last thing we want to do is put his death on display for the public, especially in a manner that would cause pain to the family. That’s why we have not identified the youth, nor his family, nor where he lived. Relatives, friends, associates of the family already know what’s happened and who he is, the rest of the reading public doesn’t, and we’re not going to knowingly do anything to change that.

What we do hope to accomplish is to make people think. Parents, grandparents, school administrators, young people — everyone. Suicides among the young people are seemingly at epidemic proportions in America.

According to an organization called The Parent Resource Program, these are some of the numbers in America today:

– Suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24, according to the Center for Disease Control;

– Suicide is the second leading cause of death for college-age youth and ages 12-18, again according to the CDC;

– More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, combined;

– There are an average of more than 5,240 suicide attempts by young people grades 7-12 in America every day.

– Four out of five teens who attempt suicide have given clear warning signs prior to their attempt.

We don’t mean to suggest all of those suicides were a result of a youth being bullied. Many suicides have underlying factors — mental health issues, drug dependence among them. However, it seems more and more, bullying is playing a role in driving youth to mental health problems, and ultimately to suicide attempts.

Here are some facts on bullying in America, supplied by the Parent Advocacy Coalition for Educational Rights National Bullying Prevention Center:

– More than one out of every five (20.8 percent) students report being bullied, according to the National Center for Educational Statistics;

– 64 percent of children who were bullied did not report it; only 36 percent reported the bullying;

– More than half of bullying situations (57 percent) stop when a peer intervenes on behalf of the student being bullied;

– School-based bullying prevention programs decrease bullying by up to 25 percent;

– Students who experience bullying are at increased risk for poor school adjustment, sleep difficulties, anxiety, and depression, according to the Center for Disease Control.

Go back and read those statistics again. What is striking is that one out of every five students report being bullied, yet nearly two thirds of those who are bullied never report it. Do the math — it’s not out of the question that more than 60 percent of every student walking the halls of our local school systems have been or are being bullied.

Bullying often leads to anxiety and depression, two conditions that almost always precede suicide attempts.

Bullying today is more than taking someone’s lunch money or stealing their snack on the school yard. Unlike years past, when a child could escape bullying by going home every night, get a respite over the weekend, today the practice is relentless. Someone who is being bullied can be victimized over and over via text, Facebook postings, Instagram, Twitter, and other social media. There’s simply no escape.

What is heartening about those same statistics is that school-based programs seem to be successful in decreasing incidents of bullying. Even more encouraging is that intervention by peers stops nearly 60 percent of bullying incidents.

So what does all of this mean?

We hope it means that parents will become actively involved in working with the local schools to ensure bullying prevention and education programs are in place.

We hope it means parents become more aware of what their children are experiencing, how they’re acting, what’s going on in their lives.

We hope it means local education officials rededicate themselves to being aware of what is happening to students in the school systems — a bullied student suffering from depression isn’t going to go to a teacher, someone needs to reach out to that youth.

We hope it means parents, teachers, ministers, and all who are involved with teens and young adults learn the warning signs of depression and suicide, learn how to watch out for bullying and techniques to intervene, and they teach others youth to do the same.

Most of all, we hope enough is done, enough people learn about bullying and mental health, that no family in this community ever has to experience this again.

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