Broaching suicide with your bullied child will NOT encourage them to take their lives!
Some parents, alarmed after reading about yet another victim of bullies who commits suicide, may still be afraid of broaching this topic with their own bullied child, fearful that it will encourage him or her to end their life.
But will bringing up the topic of suicide actually encourage a bullied child to carry out this action?
“No! This is an important issue because it has come up so frequently — particularly with cyber bulling,” says Dr. Marilyn Benoit, MD, Chief Clinical Officer and SVP for Clinical & Professional Affairs of Devereux, the largest not-for-profit behavioral healthcare organization in the country. Dr. Benoit has a family practice as a child and adolescent psychiatrist.
“Literature has shown a direct correlation between people who have suffered bullying in silence, and physical health and mental health impairments,” continues Dr. Benoit.
Parents absolutely must discuss suicide with a bullied child.
“Discussing suicide does not make someone want to commit suicide,” says Dr. Benoit.
“It actually does quite the opposite. It offers the child an opportunity to disclose how awful they are feeling — and gives parents the opportunity to let them know that thoughts of suicide are not bad – rather, they are an indicator of what someone is feeling, and that there are ways for the child and family to receive help.”
Be very careful how you tackle this topic, however. I once knew of an adolescent boy who complained to his mother how miserable his life was.
She got mad and gruffly replied, “Oh don’t give me that! You have it so much luckier than most kids, you don’t even KNOW how lucky you have it!
“I bet if you wrote down all the good things in your life and all the bad things in your life, you’d see that all the good things would outnumber all the bad things!”
All of these words were spoken in an angry voice.
“I do want to bring up the issue that bullying sometimes leads children to feel so awful and so perplexed that they feel that they want to kill themselves,” says Dr. Benoit.
She urges parents to be very open about this troubling topic. “We need to let them know that it’s okay to talk about these feelings and talk about bullying. This will allow families and children to seek the help they need from mental health professionals.”
If your child is being bullied or harassed at school, then next time there’s new news about a bully victim who committed suicide (and unfortunately, there probably will be in the next few months), discuss the case with your son or daughter.
Get them thinking and brainstorming on what the victim could have done instead of ending their life.
Dr. Benoit is past president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and has provided Congressional testimony on issues including child abuse, teen pregnancy and youth suicide.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.