3 Studies Report Bullied Teens May Be Depressed, Suicidal and Carry Weapons

Discover what researchers have learned and how to respond

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Being bullied is never easy and teens often suffer from a multitude of consequences including everything from anxiety, poor academic performance and stress to eating disorders and post-traumatic stress disorder.

But a trio of studies reported at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in San Diego indicate that teens subjected to bullying, teen dating violence and other forms of violence are more likely to report being seriously depressed and consider suicide.

They also are more likely to carry weapons to school.

Additionally, one of the studies, which compared different forms of bullying, found that the consequences of cyberbullying are significant. Even though cyberbullying may not pose the same physical dangers as face-to-face bullying, it can be much more hurtful because of its reach. When a student is bullied online, it can spread very quickly throughout the school and sometimes takes on a life of its own.

A Closer Look at the Studies

The three studies were based on data collected by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as part of its Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System. Data collection includes a biannual questionnaire of teens in grades nine to twelve in all 50 states and provides an overall opinion of high school students in the United States.

In one of the studies, researchers found that bullying, dating violence, and sexual dating violence lead teens to skip school and carry weapons.

What’s more, the teens who were victimized in more than one way were more likely to carry a weapon to school or stop attending school altogether.

Additionally, because the percentage of high school students that experience bullying and teen dating violence is relatively high, the risk of weapon use is also high.

In fact, the CDC reports that 11 percent of high school students experience teen dating violence and 20 percent report being bullied.

Meanwhile, another study focused on teens who were victims of bullying in the past 12 months. The goal was to determine whether there are gender differences when it comes to carrying a weapon to school.

As a result, researchers discovered that overall boys were more likely to carry a weapon to school than girls, regardless of victim status. Meanwhile, girls that experienced bullying were three times more likely to carry a weapon as girls who were not victimized. On the other hand, boys who were bullied were less than twice as likely to carry a weapon compared to boys who were not bullied.

Unfortunately, the CDC data does not indicate whether kids are carrying weapons for protection or because they want revenge. Yet, because kids are carrying weapons at alarming rates, it is clear that school administrators, teachers and parents need to be aware of the risks.

The prevalence of school bullying is clearly putting the safety of all students at risk, both the victims and the bystanders.

Next Steps for Schools and Parents

Clearly, greater bullying prevention efforts are needed to protect students at school. Students should feel safe both inside and outside of school. As a result, schools must address all forms of bullying including cyberbullying. Not only should they become familiar with why kids are cyberbullying others, but they also should evaluate their bullying prevention programs and how these programs address cyberbullying.

Meanwhile, parents need to be vigilant with their bullying prevention efforts at home. Aside from keeping the lines of communication open with their kids, they also need to take steps to prevent cyberbullying in their lives. They also should be aware of how kids are using technology to bully others and what apps and sites are most often used to bully others.

School administrators, teachers and parents also need to know how to spot the signs of depression in a bullied child. And, they should especially be able to identify when a child is at risk for suicide. Parents should never delay in getting outside help or counseling for their child.

Finally, schools and parents need to remember that there is an increased risk that bullied and harassed teens may carry weapons and work diligently to increase the safety of the students. Not only should they be doing everything they can to protect the students who are being victimized, but they should take necessary steps to protect the bystanders as well. By doing so, they may be able to reduce the risk that weapons are present at school.

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