Preventing child and adolescent suicide; Taking action towards early detection of bullying

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This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Otumara Urowoli Jessica, a 6th year medical student studying in Sumy State University, Ukraine. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

Bullying and suicide are both complex public health issues that need urgent and meticulous attention. In recent times, the frequency of suicide associated deaths resulting from bullying have caused immense trauma not just for the individuals involved but also their families, communities and the society at large. Suicide might not be a direct response to bullying but when combined with other risk factors, increases the chance that a young person will engage in a suicide related behaviour. Therefore, it is of essence to take action towards the early detection of bullying and save a life today. Outlined below are some ways to prevent suicide as a result of bullying;

The family is where children and adolescents first interact with others, learn values, norms and beliefs of the society. With this great role the family plays, it is necessary that parents and caretakers show unconditional love, emotional support, detailed sensitivity to their wards behaviour and are genuinely interested in their children’s lives. Any slight change in behaviour or complaints towards bullying from the child should be immediately acted upon and handled by the appropriate authorities.

Research shows that young people who feel associated with their schools are less inclined to participate in self destruction related and tormenting acts. Little acts like; addressing students by their name each day, asking them how they are getting along and empowering their extracurricular association can go far to offer significant help particularly to the people who might be battling socially and emotionally. Responsible, well trained and caring school personnels need to inculcate life coping skills in the youths by constantly teaching them to build resilience and acceptance of differences in others. This will eventually increase their social intelligence and empathy which is important to foster positive mental health. School personnels should give much more attention to the vulnerable populations (youths with disabilities, learning differences, sexual identity differences) and be well trained on appropriate ways to intervene in bullying situations. They must understand that ‘power differences’ involved in bullying situations makes conflict resolution methods ineffective but rather, adopt and implement effective anti-bullying policies.

The youth need to be empowered by proactive ways they can influence the social norms of their peer group so that bullying is seen as a negative behavior and reported to higher authorities.

Conclusively, punishment and appropriate consequences are a necessary part of response to bullying but in order to set the tone for lasting prevention, we must move beyond punishment and victim blaming to a proper correction and understanding of the need not to bully a fellow human. The focus on blame and shame is divisive and may be a roadblock especially to the bully who may eventually feel depressed and have suicidal thoughts which is detrimental to their own mental health. We all have a part to play in prevention of  bullying and suicide associated deaths by being vigilant and showing love towards one another.

About the author

Otumara Urowoli Jessica is a 6th year medical student studying in Sumy State University, Ukraine. She is from Nigeria and passionate about ‘mental health issues’ which propelled her to take part in seminars and conferences geared towards this course. She is a holder of a number of certificates with reputable institutions and is currently a member of the European medical Student association (EMSA Ukraine), American College of Cardiology, ambassador of the girls4girls network and the secretary of InciSion, Ukraine. She loves writing because it enables her to express her thoughts and communicate effectively to a specific audience.

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