Bullied boys four times more
likely to self-harm
Boys who have been bullied are four times more likely to self-harm, according to research.
Schools need to prioritise implementation of anti-bullying policies given the serious consequences and the reluctance of boys to seek help.
The study found that being able to talk to a family member helped protect against self-harm, while problems with schoolwork and worries about sexual orientation were among factors associated with self-harm.
The report, conducted by lead researcher Elaine McMahon, found that 19% of adolescent schoolboys surveyed said they had been bullied at some time, with 4% reporting bullying within the last year.
Last year prevalence decreased with age, dropping from 6% among 15-year-olds to 3% among 17-year-olds. It said these figures were average in a European context but higher than previous studies in Ireland.
"One in 10 boys who had been bullied reported self-harm, a four times higher prevalence than among boys who had not been bullied," said the report.
"Over a quarter of bullied boys had thought about harming themselves in the past year, three times more than their non-bullied peers."
It added: "Boys who had been bullied had significantly higher levels of depression and anxiety and poorer self-esteem than those without this experience."
The research was a joint project between the National Suicide Research Foundation, based in Cork, the Department of Epidemiology in UCC and Child Mental Health Services in the HSE Southern area.
The research said that one of its strengths was that it examined factors associated with being bullied and resultant self-harming.
"Problems with peers and problems with parents were strongly associated with being a victim of bullying," the report said.
It said difficulties with making or keeping friends was a major factor.
"Other relationship problems associated with victimisation were serious arguments or fights with friends, serious fights with parents and problems between parents."
It also listed self-esteem, problems with schoolwork, worries about sexual orientation and physical abuse as factors associated with bullying and/or self harm.
It said that, among non-bullied boys, factors associated with self-harm include self-harm by a friend or family member.
"The fact that bullying victims are viewed as ‘weak’ by their peers may contribute to a sense of failure in the role of the ‘stronger sex’ which boys experience when victimised and may explain the strong association between victimisation and self-esteem."
The research said that being able to talk to a family member protected both boys who had been bullied and those who had not.
5 July 2012