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Bullies, Victims at Higher Risk for Suicidal Thoughts

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The unnerving cliché of a bully dominating the school halls has just gotten scarier—for both the bullied and the bully. A new paper published at the University of Warwick asserts that children on either end of bullying are three times more likely to have thoughts or plans of suicide before age 11.

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The study looked at data from 6,043 children from a long-term health research project (the Avon Longitudinal Study of Parents and Children, also known as "Children of the '90s") at the University of Bristol and asked further questions associated with bullying or victim frequency to teachers, parents and children. The study found that when compared to kids who were never bullied, the victims of bullies were three times as likely to have suicidal thoughts; those who suffered from long-term bullying were six times more likely to consider suicide. It was also noted that bullies, even if they always stayed the aggressor, have a higher risk of suicidal or self-harming thoughts, though these results were less consistent.

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Professor Dietor Wolke, one of the authors of the study explains, "Our study findings suggest that suicide-related behavior is a serious problem for pre-adolescent youth: 4.8% of this community population reported suicidal thoughts and 4.6% reported suicidal or self-injurious behavior.” Not only is suicide a significant and global health problem, it is also the leading cause of death in many countries. Wolke recommends that those in the medical field should understand the relationship between suicide and bullying, as the effects of harassment develop earlier than previously thought.

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It is important for bullying behavior to be examined seriously from an early age and "targeting intervention schemes from primary school onward is paramount,” Wolke continues. Paying extra attention to the first signs of this behavior and bully education “could help to prevent chronic exposure to bullying, which is especially harmful."

Plus: Why Kids Should See the R-Rated Movie Bully

Has your child ever been the victim of bullying—or, gulp, the bully?

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