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New research links bullying and teen suicide

The recent suicide of Amanda Todd, the B.C. teen who was ruthlessly bullied by her peers, has cast a spotlight on the connection between bullying and suicide. In fact, many continue to argue that there is no connection between the two.

However, new research published this month reveals that, although other factors are usually involved, bullying does increase the chance teens will think about suicide or take their own lives.

One study, published in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine, found that young people between 10 and 17 who had been victimized by their peers in the past year were 2.4 times more likely to have "suicidal ideation," a term that refers to thinking about or planning suicide.

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The study found that bullying was only one risk factor for suicidal thoughts. Young people who had been sexually assaulted in the past year were 3.4 times more likely to have suicidal ideation, while those who experienced maltreatment by a parent or a caregiver were 4.4 times more likely to have suicidal thoughts.

Another study, released last weekend at the American Academy of Pediatrics national conference in New Orleans, found a clear relationship between cyberbullying and suicide. In the study, researchers collected data about youth suicides from the Internet, including information about the demographics of the individuals involved. Of the 41 suicide cases they identified, researchers found that 78 per cent of the people involved had been victims of bullying at school and online. Less than 20 per cent were targeted solely online.

The authors note that 32 per cent of the adolescents who took their lives were reported to have a mood disorder, while 15 per cent experienced symptoms of depression.

The study concludes that cyberbullying is only one of many issues involved in youth suicide. They note that face-to-face bullying is also a factor that preceded suicide among youth.

Todd documented in her YouTube video how she was abused, harassed and physically assaulted by her peers at school. It also doesn't come as a shock that many teens who have been victimized by their peer groups would experience symptoms of depression or develop a mood disorder.

One of the reasons that social media has been getting so much attention in recent weeks is that it can make it much easier to engage in bullying behaviour and more difficult for young people to escape or avoid the abuse.

The news of 15-year-old Amanda's death has sparked a national discussion about how to stop bullying in schools and prevent other young people from deciding to take their lives as a result.

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About the Author

Carly Weeks has been a journalist with The Globe and Mail since 2007.  She has reported on everything from federal politics to the high levels of sodium in the Canadian diet. More

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