Rates of suicide among bullied youth
Research shows that suicidal thoughts/attempts as well as actual suicides are significantly higher among regularly bullied children compared to their non-bullied peers. A 1999 Kidscape survey found that nearly half (46%) of those who were bullied in their youth contemplated suicide, compared with only 7% of those who were not bullied - an increase in suicidal rates of almost 7 times (or 700%) as a result of bullying. (Kidscape, 1999) Twenty-percent of bullied children had actually attempted suicide. Other studies have found that compared to their peers, bullied boys are 4 times more likely to be suicidal; while bullied girls are 8 times more likely to be suicidal. (Fox et al., 2003) A different study by Yale University found bullying victims up to 9-times more likely to consider suicide. (Kluger, 2012) As we pointed out in our section on the effects of bullying, social rejection registers in the brain with the same intensity as a life-death matter that impacts our very existence. Sadly, faced with ongoing peer torment that seems like it will never end, many children choose death.
The bullycide problem put in perspective
Let's put the bullycide problem into a little perspective that may open your eyes about how serious this issue is, at least in comparison to some of the other things parents worry about. Between 2,000 and 3,000 teens in the U.S. kill themselves each and every year. During the 1998-1999 school year, for example, the CDC reports that 2,700 kids between the ages of 10 and 19 took their own lives. (Garbarino & deLara, 2002) It's difficult to decipher how many of these are bullycides, especially since suicide statistics themselves are rife with error. As Garbarino & deLara (2002, p. 84) state, "At this point, no one is really sure how many young people actually kill themselves due to the rejection and humiliation they experience at school among their peers. Social scientists are certain that the rates for suicides among school-age kids are underreported and underestimated. Often coroners do not know what to look for and many times they, along with the victims' families, are unwilling to list ‘suicide’ on a death certificate." In other words, this 2,700 number is surely an under-count of the teen suicides that actually take place.
While no official statistics on bullycides exist, (tracking this on a national scale is problematic ... suicide victims don't exactly check a box before death that clearly indicates their reasons), case studies and anecdotal evidence suggest the number is very high. Those who study teen suicides know there are two primary reasons for these deaths that together account for the overwhelming majority of teen suicides: A) Sexual identity crisis, or B) Bullying/peer problems. Often the two are interwoven. Sometimes suicides are driven by family abuse or other problems, but these other reasons combined account for a minority of cases in comparison to the other two.