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Depression & Bullying

One HUGE Risk Factor for Depression in Youth is Bullying.
Studies show that both the Bully and the Victim are at Risk for Depression.

A Finnish study (Rittakertu Kaitiala-Heino) released in 1999, shows that both the bullied and the youth doing the bullying show increased risk for depression and severe suicidal thoughts. Interestingly, this study also showed that when symptoms of depression were treated, the youth who was doing the bullying continued to fixate on suicide.

Other research shows that victims of bullying tend to be:

More introverted * Less assertive * Over-involved with family * and Rejected by peers

Being bullied also is associated with other symptoms such as:

Bed wetting * Difficulty sleeping * Headaches * Abdominal pain * Anxiety * Fear of going to school * Feelings of being unsafe and unhappy at school * Low self-esteem * and Depression

The consequences to the bully can also be high. They include:

High risk of delinquency in adulthood * Poorer perceived health * Mental disorders in adulthood * Juvenile delinquency * Alcohol misuse * Violence in adulthood * Criminal behavior * Rejection by peers * Social isolation * and Depression

Bullying is common: 1 in 10 children report being bullied weekly at school. Since the consequences for both the victim and the bully are so terrible, isn't it critical that teachers, clinicians and parents become alert to the possibility that our children are involved in either receiving or displaying this behavior?

It's time that we quit saying to ourselves, "Boys will be boys. I lived through it. He (or she) will, too. It's a normal part of childhood."

It is NOT a normal part of childhood. It is a part of childhood that is causing unnecessary pain for millions of children everywhere.

Can't we at least try to do something about it?


Another risk factor for depression in youth is being from a divorced family, particularly if you are a boy. A 10 year study, funded by the National Institute of Mental Health, reported that -

"perhaps even optimal post-divorce circumstances are not sufficient to compensate for the sadness experienced by boys because of the departure of their father from the home." Children of divorced parents are also at risk because their parents often discontinue quality parenting (one parent is gone, there is less money, mom becomes depressed herself...). What does this mean to you?

If you are divorced, be more alert to the fact that your children may become depressed and be willing to get them help if they need it.

An additional risk factor that was reported in a study done by Elizabeth Goodman of Children's Hospital Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine is smoking. The study found that teenagers who smoke are four times more likely to become depressed. It seems that nicotine and other cigarette additives have a negative effect on certain brain receptors, causing increased depressive symptoms.

How important is it that teenagers receive help for their depression?

Since suicide is the second leading cause of death for youths between the ages of 10 and 24, it is very important that they receive the medical and psychological help they need. Don't risk it. Get it for them. Drag them there if you have to.

Don't assume that your teenager will be all right.

Did you know that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report in June, 2000 showing that among Utah youths ages 15 to 19, suicide is the leading cause of death?

In an article by Lois M. Collins of the Deseret News (June 9, 2000), Cal Cazier of the Utah state Health Department is quoted as saying, "We have known for some time that the suicide rate among adolescents in Utah is higher than the national rate. In fact, what's happening is the suicide rate in the Intermountain West as a region is the highest region in the country. But nobody knows why the suicide rate is so high." Another study performed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control showed that more than 20 percent of youths surveyed in 1997 had seriously considered attempting suicide. 15% more had made a plan for committing suicide and 7% had actually attempted suicide.

It is important that teenagers are given the encouragement and support needed to allow them to express their feelings - all of them. Pay attention to what they are doing. Pay attention to how they are acting. Pay attention to what they are saying. Teens usually give us clues about what they are going to do next. Know the signs and watch for them. Don't allow yourself to deny what you are seeing. It is just too important.

For more on Bullying, go to my page on Bullying