Online harassment related to increased risk for suicidal actions and thoughts

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The results of a major review show that online bullying of teens is associated with an increased risk of suicidal thoughts and actions.

A study of more than 96,000 children and adolescents showed that almost 9% were victims of cyberbullying. In addition, the risk of suicidal thoughts was 12 times higher in those who were cyber-bullied than in those who were not. The risk of self-harming behaviors and suicide attempts was also significantly increased.

The study’s authors point out that increased use of social media during the COVID-19 pandemic may exacerbate this risk.

“Improved surveillance is needed especially during these unprecedented times to prevent the adverse effects of cyberbullying,” they point out.


Dr. Jayasudha Gude

“Mental health professionals should start harassment screening from an early age, examine each visit, and encourage teens to communicate openly with parents or health care providers if they are being harassed,” he explained. the lead author of Jayasudha Gude, MBBS. Medscape Medical News.

Gude presented his findings at the 2021 Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) Virtual.

Sarcasm vs. Bullying

Gude, who graduated from the Maharajah Institute of Medical Sciences in Nellimarla, India, and is currently applying for a residency in psychiatry in the United States, said the research is personal.

“Harassment is very common in India, although many people would call it sarcasm. I think there is a very fine line between sarcasm and harassment. I was harassed before and had friends who have been affected by the ‘harassment, “Gude said.

The researchers assessed the overall prevalence of cyberbullying and its association with suicidal ideation, self-harm, and suicide attempts.

They identified 433 articles through a literature search, reviewed 64 relevant articles, and included 16 in their analysis. The search focused on children and adolescents between the ages of 11 and 18 who experienced cyberbullying.

The 16 selected studies included 96,183 people; the overall prevalence of cyberbullying was 8.9%.

The results showed that children and adolescents who were cyberbullied were more than 12 times more likely to have suicidal thoughts (odds ratio). [OR], 12.3; 95% CI: 6.57-23.03; Pg <.00001).

Children and adolescents who were bullied online also had a significant risk of influencing self-harm behaviors (three studies: OR, 35.08; 95% CI, 18.54 – 66.38; P .00001) and make a suicide attempt (seven studies: OR, 7.84; 95% CI, 3.31 – 18.53; P <.00001).

The main limitation of the analysis was the significant heterogeneity between studies.

“This is simply a first step in analyzing the data,” Gude said. “We need more research in this area and to develop strategies to recognize harassment and cyberbullying and ways to intervene.”

Key unanswered questions include what makes an individual cyberbully, how to address the problem, and what are the long-term effects of cyberbullying on mental health, Gude said.

Important but not surprising

Commenting on the findings of Medscape Medical News, Charles B. Nemeroff, MD, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Dell Medical School, University of Texas at Austin, Austin, Texas, said this study is “important because it combines all available reports in a single meta-analysis. “

Nemeroff, who did not participate in this investigation, is a principal investigator for the Texas Child Trauma Network.

“We are recruiting children and adolescents with a recent history of trauma; and harassment and cyberbullying are, unfortunately, very common. The link between cyberbullying and suicide has long been clinically observed with multiple case reports and studies. small, ”Nemeroff said. .

“This meta-analysis tells us what we suspected of the close relationship and we should raise cyberbullying detection to a mandatory level for mental health professionals and primary care physicians, including pediatricians and family physicians,” added.

Gude and Nemeroff have not revealed any relevant financial relationship.

Annual Meeting of the American Psychiatric Association (APA) 2021: Presented May 3, 2021.

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