I am often asked what is known about the links between bullying and teen mental health outcomes, including depression and suicide.

Medical research tells us – and many of us can observe in our personal lives – that bullying can drive feelings of sadness and even hopelessness, and that this dynamic can even result in suicide attempts for certain populations. Significantly, a large new study published this week by John Rovers of Drake University and colleagues in the journal PLOS ONE actually shows that when teens are bullied based on their sexual orientation or gender orientation, the correlation with suicide attempts is highest.

The research by John Rovers of Drake University is made up of data analyzed from over 70,000 participants, and it gives us additional evidence that there are especially strong correlations between bullying based on their sexual orientation or gender orientation and suicide. This in an important learning that can be utilized in not only training medical professionals, but also those charged with educating our children in schools and institutions of higher learning.

In addition, the Drake University study demonstrated that bullying continues to be a significant problem in schools, with research estimating that as many as 30% of American youth are being bullied. Given that we continue to see evidence that bullying can have long-term negative effects on the well-being, health and social adjustment of young people, it’s important that we heed the warning that this study provides and implement appropriate policies that address the issue.
And of course make sure that our kids get the mental health support they need.

There are a number of ways that parents can help reduce the chances of their children being bullied in school. For example, nurturing a positive family climate and teaching your kids emotional and interpersonal skills can be crucial. But establishing and building relationships with school personnel and other parents of children at the school can also be very helpful. Having a pathway of communication such as this can ensure that if problems do exist you are in a position to get the support of educators and other staffers to make sure it is resolved amicably.

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