September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), “It is a time to share resources and stories in an effort to shed light on this highly taboo and stigmatized topic.” Raising awareness about suicidal ideation and offering viable treatment resources and services can offer support to victims and their families. While Suicide Prevention Month provides a specified time to focus on this difficult topic, it is important to address suicide, bullying and cyberbullying year-round.
Recent reports indicate the leading cause of death in children under 14 years of age is suicide associated with being bullied. During the back-to-school season, it is prudent for parents and educators to understand that bullying and cyberbullying is prevalent, how it presents itself, and how it can be prevented.
Bullying is not new but only recently has been coined a ‘silent epidemic’ in America. Bullying, on or off line, happens when a person is picked on over and over again by one or a group of individuals. Cyberbullying is subtle. Since it is often done anonymously, cyberbullying is hard to trace. Cyberbullying can cause extreme damage to a person’s reputation and mental health. As with bullying, victims of cyberbullying may experience anxiety, depression, eating disorders, sleeplessness, dramatic mood changes, thinking about death, and suicidal ideation. Unfortunately, if bullying or cyberbullying continues, suicide may follow.
Bullies vs Cyberbullies: What’s the difference?
Display minimal or no empathy toward others.
Attack their victims physically by hitting, punching, tripping, or even sexual assault.
Psychologically target their victims through dominating, shaming, and demeaning behavior.
Target their victims verbally through insults, teasing, taunting, gossip, and verbal assaults.
Exclude their victims from cliques or groups.
Display little or no empathy toward others.
Harass, threaten or embarrass their victims through mean, rude texts and inappropriate posts or messages on social sites.
Stalk, manipulate, and harass their victims through fake online accounts.
Confuse and frustrate their victims by giving them no knowledge of how many people are involved or who knows about the bullying.
What are schools doing? Schools are putting more safeguards in place against all forms of bullying. Punishment for both bullies and cyberbullies can be serious to the point of suspension, expulsion or even legal consequences.
How can parents help? Parents can help prevent bullying/cyberbullying from occurring by encouraging their child to….
Never share passwords, personal data, or private photos
Report the bully
Save the evidence
Block the bully from all devices