Bullying May Increase Risk of Suicide in Bystanders, Victims

Article excerpt

ATLANTA -- Chronic peer abuse is a risk factor for adolescent suicidal behavior--not only for the victim of the abuse but also for bystanders, JoLynn Carney, Ph.D., said at the annual meeting of the American Association of Suicidology.

A group of 201 middle school and high school students who reported being either a victim or an observer of peer abuse answered questions about a hypothetical scenario of direct, chronic bullying. They were then asked to complete a questionnaire (the Suicide Probability Scale) to determine the hypothetical victim's risk of suicide.

There was no significant difference between the responses of participants who reported being victims of peer abuse and those who reported being bystanders. All of them responded similarly to the suicidal characteristic variables of hopelessness, negative self-evaluation, suicidal ideation, and hostility, Dr. Carney reported at a poster session.

"The interesting finding of this study--that bystanders also rated [the victim] as a high suicidal risk--points to the impact of peer abuse not only on the victims but also on the bystanders," said Dr. Carney of Youngstown (Ohio) State University.

She recommended that interventions addressed to bullies and victims should be expanded to include the generally overlooked population of bystanders, who might be experiencing equally problematic consequences from observing the abuse of their peers. …


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