WARNING SIGNS

Signs your child is being bullied

Up to 25% of students report having been bullied at some point in their lives, and of this percentage, there are a certain number of cases that result in very, very severe outcomes.

The consequences of bullying extend from low self-esteem, social withdrawal and isolation, maladjustment on both a social and emotional level, to potential for substance abuse and failing grades.  Victims may become depressed, experience anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, struggle with anger, aggression or hostility, experience suicidal ideation, or attempt suicide.

How to discuss bullying and suicide with your child.

It is important to learn how to recognize if your child is being bullied and to recognize if your child is struggling with thoughts of suicide. Understand that asking directly about suicide will not make your child suicidal or plant the idea.

To speak openly and directly, without judgement, can bring relief to that person. A child will already be struggling with lower self esteem because of the bullying and will be looking to you for your love and support. They fear that they will upset you and possibly lose that love.

It is important that you listen and reassure your child that you will be there to help.

In 2006 the World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) reported that “suicide is rarely a spur of the moment decision. In the days and hours before people kill themselves, there are usually clues and warning signs”. The WFMH (2006) compiled a list of warning signs that could help identify if someone was contemplating suicide.

 Situations 

  1. Family history of suicide or violence

  2. Sexual or physical abuse

  3. Death of a close friend or family member

  4. Divorce or separation, ending a relationship

  5. Failing academic performance

  6. Job loss, problems at work

  7. Impending legal action

 Behaviours 

  1. Crying

  2. Fighting

  3. Breaking the law

  4. Impulsiveness

  5. Self-harm

  6. Writing about death or suicide

  7. Previous suicidal behaviour

  8. Changes in behaviour

 Physical Changes 

  1. Lack of energy

  2. Disturbed sleeping pattern (sleeping too much or too little)

  3. Loss of appetite

  4. Sudden weight gain or loss

  5. Increase in minor illnesses

  6. Change of sexual interest

  7. Sudden change in appearance

  8. lack of interest in appearance

 Thoughts or Emotions 

  1. Thoughts of suicide

  2. Loneliness, lack of support from family and friends

  3. Rejection, feeling marginalized (feeling like you are unimportant or insignificant)

  4. Deep sadness or guilt

  5. Unable to see beyond a narrow focus

  6. Daydreaming

  7. Anxiety and stress

  8. Loss of self-worth

Youth in BC (www.youthinbc.com) state that it is important to note that just because you observe the warning signs doesn’t mean your child is suicidal.  These signs can be an indication that ‘something isn’t quite right’ and it’s worth asking about it.

This is the opportunity to show that you care, you are worried and you are concerned about what you have seen.  Remember to ask directly “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” or “Are you thinking about killing yourself?”.  When you express concern for your child, this ‘opens the door’ for communicating as noted by Youth in BC.

Youth in BC also note the important of believing what your child is saying.  Take the time to listen without judging, interrupting or challenging the person.

At this point, do not leave your child alone.  Get connected with services in your community that can help (many resources are listed HERE and then look for your area). To learn more about communicating with your child about suicide, please visit (www.suicideinfo.ca).  Some suggestions from The Centre for Suicide Prevention (2007) for communicating with your child about suicide include;

 Time 

  • Have the conversation when you will not be interrupted 

  • Be flexible about the amount of time you will need

 Space 

  • Chose a place with no distractions

  • Choose a place that is comfortable and private

 Patience 

  • Before talking with your child, calm yourself and clear your mind of other issues

  • Do not interrupt or provide unwanted advice

  • Your child will talk about things that are difficult for you to hear. Do not react with anger, shock or frustration

  • Ask questions, one at a time until you have a clear understanding of what your child is saying

 Skill 

  • Start the conversation with "I" statements

  • Respond in ways that make your child feel heard

  • Ensure your tone of voice matches your body language

  • Us open-ended statements to encourage your child to talk 

  • Accept and confirm child's feelings and that their problems are important

If you are having difficulty with the information that your child has presented, please reach out to qualified experts.  If you are unsure where to start, try the school Counsellors, Principal, local resources or the internet.

The above information comes from the book "Bullying is Not a Game" by Laurie Flasko, Youth in BC and the Centre for Suicide Prevention.