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Bullying and Suicide: Unraveling the Link. Christine Moutier , M.D., AFSP Chief Medical Officer Deborah Temkin , Ph.D., The Robert F. Kennedy Center Jill Harkavy Friedman , Ph.D., AFSP Vice President of Research. This session will:.

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bullying and suicide unraveling the link

Bullying and Suicide: Unraveling the Link

Christine Moutier, M.D., AFSP Chief Medical Officer

Deborah Temkin, Ph.D., The Robert F. Kennedy Center

Jill Harkavy Friedman, Ph.D., AFSP Vice President of Research

this session will
This session will:
  • Acknowledge prominent discussion/public opinion re: bullying and suicide – and offer an alternative
  • Present a model for understanding youth suicide in the context of multiple risk and protective factors, and show where bullying can fit into this model
  • Review current research findings
  • Present a model bullying prevention approach
  • Emphasize and offer guidance on safe messaging
  • Provide future direction for AFSP Field Advocates and Chapters
current dialogue is it really accurate
Current dialogue – is it really accurate?
  • Media and public discussion have created a narrative of “death by bullying”
  • Many suicide prevention and mental health groups (including AFSP) have reacted by insisting the opposite – that suicide is NOT directly caused by bullying
  • Reality is probably somewhere in the middle of these 2 polarized discussions
interacting variables risk
Interacting Variables  risk

Psychological

Factors

Biological

Factors

Past History

Current Life Events

RISK

interacting variables risk1
Interacting Variables  risk

Psychological

Factors

Biological

Factors

Past History

Current Life Events

RISK

interacting variables risk2
Interacting Variables  risk

Current Life Events

RISK

interacting variables risk3
Interacting Variables  risk

Psychological

Factors

Biological

Factors

Past History

Current Life Events

RISK

youth risk and protective factors some examples
Youth Risk and protective factors:Some examples

Risk Factors:

Protective Factors:

History of/current self harm behavior

History of/current experiences with abuse/victimization

Living with/history of mental or substance use disorder

Prolonged stress

Highly stressful life event

Access to means

Impulsivity and or aggression

Intense emotional states (despair, hopelessness, humiliation)

Access to and receiving effective mental health care

Parent connectedness

Connectedness to peers/other supportive adults

Perceived caring by others

Perceived school and neighborhood safety

Positive community connections

Positive self-esteem, problem-solving skills, sociability

what does the research show
What does the research show?
  • CDC convened an expert panel focusing on the relationship between bullying involvement and suicide-related behaviors (Sept. 2010)
  • Key themes emerged in reviewing the latest research:
    • Bullying among youth is a significant public health problem; it is prevalent and frequently has detrimental effects
    • There is a strong association between bullying and suicide-related behaviors, but this relationship is mediated by other factors
    • Public health strategies can be applied to the prevention of bullying and suicide
bullying is a significant public health problem
Bullying is a significant public health problem
  • Young people’s involvement in bullying in any capacity (bully others, are bullied, or both) correlates with poor mental and physical health and engagement in other risk behaviors
  • Involvement in bullying can also have long-lasting, detrimental effects months or even years after the bullying occurs
association between bullying and suicide related behaviors
Association between Bullying and Suicide-Related Behaviors
  • Is STRONG – involvement in bullying in any capacity is linked to increased risk for suicidal ideation and behavior

-- HOWEVER --

  • Considering bullying experiences isolated from other experiences explains a relatively small amount of variation in suicidal ideation
  • Suicide risk will be more accurately predicted when considering the entirety of risk and protective factors for a particular youth
association between bullying and suicide related behaviors1
Association between Bullying and Suicide-Related Behaviors
  • Is COMPLEX:
    • Persistent involvement in bullying can lead to low self-esteem, isolation, depression, anxiety, despair
    • Bullying can precipitate suicidal behavior in already vulnerable youth
    • Mental and developmental disorders may manifest in ways that increase the likelihood of being involved in bullying
    • Bullying others may signal mental health vulnerabilities
    • Students who observe bullying behavior may also be at risk
public health strategies for prevention
Public health strategies for Prevention
  • Integrated approaches that focus on preventing both suicide AND bullying
  • Focus on shared risk and protective factors, including individual coping skills, family and school social support, and supportive school environments
public health strategies for prevention1
Public health strategies for Prevention
  • Example strategy components:
    • Increase youths’ ability to cope with school-related problems and conflict
    • Help youth build positive relationships with parents, other family members, teachers, classmates, and intimate partners
    • Address youths’ barriers to accessing effective mental health and substance abuse treatment, and monitor youth currently in treatment
    • Foster supportive and connections to school and home environments and communities
slide15

Deborah A. Temkin, Ph.D.

Manager, Project SEATBELT

Bullying Prevention Initiative

Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights

202-463-7575 x243

temkin@rfkcenter.org

http://bullying.rfkcenter.org/

talking about suicide and bullying safely and accurately
Talking About Suicide and BullyingSAFELY and ACCURATELY

When speaking to others about or covering suicide and bullying in the media, we must always be aware of the potential for:

Suicide Contagion

  • Increases in suicide deaths linked with certain kinds of public visibility and media coverage about suicide
  • Most likely to occur among persons who are already seriously depressed or contemplating suicide
suicide contagion
Suicide Contagion
  • Contagion risk has been observed when:
    • The number of stories about individual suicides increases
    • A particular death is reported in great detail across many stories
    • Coverage of a suicide death is placed on the front page of a newspaper/at the top of a newscast
    • The headlines about specific suicide deaths are framed dramatically
talking about suicide and bullying safely and accurately1
Talking About Suicide and Bullying SAFELY and ACCURATELY

DO:

Emphasize the complexity of suicidal behavior

Acknowledge that bullying can be a contributing factor and or a precipitating event in youth suicide

Emphasize individual and collective responsibility for supporting the well-being of youth who are bullied AND those who bully others

Encourage help-seeking and emphasize availability of supportive resources

Emphasize the vital importance of family, school, and community support and connectedness

talking about suicide and bullying safely and accurately2
Talking About Suicide and Bullying SAFELY and ACCURATELY

DO NOT:

  • Include details of a suicide death in titles or headlines
  • Describe the method used
  • Attribute the suicide death only to bullying or other negative life events
  • Normalize suicide by presenting it as the logical consequence of bullying, rejection, discrimination, or exclusion
  • Idealize young people who die by suicide or create an aura of celebrity around them
  • Use the term “bullycide”
talking about suicide and bullying safely and accurately3
Talking About Suicide and BullyingSAFELY and ACCURATELY
  • Know your audience!
    • Emphasizing the scope of the problem (i.e. sharing statistics) is more appropriate to do with elected officials
    • Emphasizing that suicide is preventable, suggesting helpful resources, and encouraging help-seeking is more appropriate to do with general audiences (that may include persons at-risk)
safe messaging resources
Safe Messaging Resources

www.afsp.org

www.reportingonsuicide.org

u s department of education www stopbullying gov
U.S. Department of Education:www.stopbullying.gov
  • Specific recommendations for media in developing safe content around bullying: http://www.stopbullying.gov/news/media/
  • Other sections:
    • What is bullying
    • Cyberbullying
    • Who is at risk
    • Prevent bullying (at school & in the community; training center)
    • Respond to bullying
    • Get help now
rfk center project seatbelt
RFK Center: Project Seatbelt
  • http://bullying.rfkcenter.org/
  • Comprehensive information and resources for schools, homes, and communities
discussion questions comments
DISCUSSION, Questions & Comments

What can we as AFSP Field Advocates, Chapter volunteers, and staff do to promote public health approaches to prevention and to influence more accurate discussions around bullying and suicide in our own communities?