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Does Bullying Lead to Self Harm?
Bullying is a challenging and ongoing aspect of life that any child, adult or teenager can experience. Forms of bullying have also evolved over the years with fewer restrictions on how an individual can be bullied, including the internet and mobile phones. Escaping this problem is becoming more and more difficult. That being said, there is evidence to suggest that bullying specifically aimed at children and teenagers can lead to self-harm. Bullying can lead to depression, a known precursor to self-harm, or it can exacerbate already tense emotions that an individual is feeling. Recent cases and statistics show the link between self-harm awareness and bullying and how true that link is.
So what is bullying? There are many definitions, and common factors include: using aggression or force to intimidate or harass someone on repeated occasions. Now the question is, how does this lead to and increase the risk of self-harm? Self-harm can be a means of releasing tension and negative feelings that can be caused by the mental and physical impact of bullying, as stated by psychology professor Dieter Wolke: “The common perception is that those who self-harm do so because they are depressed or mentally ill. We found that bullying, especially chronically in elementary school, directly increases the risk of self-harm.” In addition, bullying can also lead to depression that then culminates in self-harm and requires increased help for self-harm.
Another form of bullying, cyberbullying, has led to an increase in suicide and self-harm among adolescents, with cases recently making headlines after repeated online abuse. Access to ask.fm, a website where users can share anonymous questions and answers, has been cited as a contributing factor. Scott Freeman, founder of The Cybersmile Foundation, said: “It’s very easy to get caught up in this cycle of online self-abuse when you’re alone in your room. Kids check it and keep checking it, and it develops into a kind of self-harm.” Help for self-harm may therefore need to adapt to the rapid growth of social media.
The study was conducted at King’s College London, where about 1,000 pairs of twins aged 5-12 years were followed. After interviews with the children’s mothers, 62 children had self-harmed up to the age of 12, and half of these children had experienced violence. Thus, it can be concluded that bullying is a possible precursor to those who self-injure. In addition, the researchers also acknowledged that this is not a black and white issue as many discoveries have shown that it is much more complicated than we think. This included:
- Has the child already self-harmed before the bullying?
- Children who chose not to disclose violence
- If the child had mental health problems.
These are just some of the factors that make the connection between self-harm and bullying a very gray area.
In order to provide help for self-harm, we need to identify the catalysts for self-harm behaviour, and bullying can be one of them. Although bullying is a stepping stone to self-harm in some cases, no assumptions can be made at this time. Types of bullying should be identified such as cyber bullying and how it affects individuals, whether self-harm can alternatively lead to peer violence, as well as the long-term consequences for children entering adolescence. By researching these issues, we are one step closer to helping those who self-harm.
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