There are a growing number of studies supporting what mental health professionals have been saying since bullying became a national issue: Bullying is common, teen suicides are rare and bullying alone does not cause teen suicides.
A study showed cyberbullying – cited as the reason bullying is a huge problem for kids today – isn’t as common as the old-fashioned kind of harassment. So it makes sense that another study found cyberbullying is rarely a single factor in suicides. Any kind of bullying is rarely the only issue when a teen kills himself.
Very few children are committing suicide and bullying is not the only factor in their deaths. Yet reporters, parents, politicians and lawyers have inextricably linked bullying to suicides, even though the evidence doesn’t support this conclusion. There’s also little evidence bullying is a bigger problem today than it was for previous generations.
There are consequences to sensational news coverage linking bullying and suicide. We have normalized children killing themselves over bullying and may have prompted copycats, a very real phenomenon. Reporters cited videos and journals left behind by bullied teens who killed themselves as proof their tormentors were responsible. These deeply troubled children glamorized their own deaths and we all played along.
There’s no question bullying should be taken seriously. Bullying can aggravate problems for children struggling with depression and anxiety. We must teach children tolerance and respect. Schools must provide a safe environment. But somewhere along the line, we’ve lost common sense in the name of protecting children from harm.
Our obsession with bullying has led to laws, lawsuits, huge amounts of school resources, marches and rallies to get people to be nice. What I don’t see is a focus on coping skills. Children have to learn how to cope with adversity and pain. People of all ages can be truly awful. That will never, ever change.
In treating bullying as a public health crisis, we’ve lost sight of the real public health issue: Undiagnosed mental illness. Perhaps some of the time and attention focused on bullying prevention should be diverted to identifying children who need serious help before there’s a tragedy.
Links of the Day:
– A man from Yemen who lives in Rochester is on the Do Not Fly list, but he has no idea why.
– A Nazareth College student from Africa lost his leg to a viper, almost blew up a secret chemistry lab, learned how to play the drums and is on his way to becoming a heart surgeon.
– Oswego schools are dealing with lawsuits related to the alleged sexual abuse of children by children.
– Forbes calls Buffalo the 10th most dangerous city.