Suicides of youth reported to have been bullied underscore the need for a concerted effort to address all of the harmful effects of bullying. While the media have reported on the issue, the relationship between bullying and suicide is more complex and less direct than some headlines and news stories might lead one to believe. A Huffington Post article, "Bullying And Suicide: The Dangerous Mistake We Make," points out that while bullying may be a precipitating event, there are often many other contributing factors, including underlying mental illness which is not being recognized.
Research indicates that persistent bullying can lead to or worsen feelings of isolation, rejection, exclusion and despair. It can also lead to depression and anxiety, which can contribute to suicidal thoughts and behavior. Yet, the vast majority of youth who are bullied do not become suicidal. Inadvertently suggesting that suicide is a natural or logical response to bullying is both inaccurate and potentially dangerous. At-risk youth who are bullied, especially those who are already depressed, may identify with these stories and view suicide as a rational solution to their problems. Studies show that the way suicides are reported can actually contribute to suicide contagion, or "copycat" suicides.
We encourage journalists who report about suicide to review the nationally recognized media recommendations, formulated by an international group of suicide experts in collaboration with journalists. Following these recommendations can reduce the risk of contagion and help to prevent suicide. Also available are recommendations for bullying prevention and recommendations for discussing LGBT suicide.
To speak with experts on suicide prevention, or for more information on safe reporting recommendations, please contact [email protected] or (212) 363-3500 Ext. 2024.