A person may experience suicidal thoughts if they are experiencing bullying or if they are bullying other people.

Bullying describes when a person or a group of people repeatedly display unwanted aggression toward another person, which involves an imbalance of power.

Suicidal feelings or suicidal ideation describes when a person thinks about, considers, or has a preoccupation with death and suicide.

This article discusses the relationship between suicidal feelings and bullying, how bullying may affect a person, and what a caregiver can do to help support a child who is experiencing bullying behavior.

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According to the World Health Organization (WHO), suicide is the second leading cause of death of people between the ages of 15 and 29 years.

A 2019 study suggests that approximately 18.8% of people in high school experienced suicidal ideation.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), approximately 1 in 5 young people experience bullying at school.

The CDC notes a strong link between young people involved in bullying behavior and young people experiencing suicidal ideation.

A 2022 study suggests that both people who are experiencing bullying and people who are bullying others may be more at risk of developing suicidal feelings.

Learn more about why people bully.

Bullying can have a negative impact on a person’s mental, physical, social, emotional, and academic health. A person involved in bullying may be more likely to develop suicidal ideation.

A person who experiences bullying may be more likely to develop mental health conditions such as depression and anxiety. They may experience various feelings and changes, including:

  • loneliness
  • sadness
  • low self-esteem
  • difficulty sleeping
  • changes in appetite
  • loss of interest in social activities

If a person experiences bullying at school, they may skip or drop out of school completely, which can affect academic achievement.

There are several physical effects of bullying that a person may experience. These can include injuries, headaches, stomach aches, dizzy spells, and heart palpitations.

If a person is bullying other people, they may be more at risk of engaging in violent or aggressive behavior once they reach adolescence or adulthood. A person who is bullying others may also be more at risk of substance use, academic issues, and encounters with law enforcement.

If a caregiver suspects a child may be experiencing bullying and having suicidal ideation, it is important they address the concern and support the person involved. There are several signs a person can look out for and ways to give support.

Know the signs of bullying

There are several common signs that can indicate a person may be experiencing bullying. These can include:

  • missing, avoiding, or disliking going to school
  • declining academic performance
  • depression, anxiety, low self-esteem, and loneliness
  • difficulty sleeping
  • headaches
  • stomachaches
  • issues with eating
  • self-harm
  • running away from home
  • sustaining injuries
  • avoiding social situations
  • having suicidal ideation

Understand the signs of depression

A person who is experiencing bullying may be more at risk of developing mental health conditions such as depression. There are several signs a caregiver can look out for if they think a person may be experiencing depression. These include:

  • persistent sadness or low mood
  • irritability, frustration, or restlessness
  • anxiety
  • loss of interest in activities that would typically provide a person with pleasure
  • low energy or fatigue
  • feelings of guilt or shame
  • feeling worthless, hopeless, or helpless
  • difficulty concentrating or remembering
  • changes in eating habits
  • withdrawal from family and friends
  • outbursts of anger or violent behavior
  • avoiding school or declining performance at school
  • difficulty sleeping
  • substance use
  • writing, drawing, or listening to music about issues such as hopelessness or death
  • physical aches and pains such as headaches, stomachaches, and digestive issues
  • speaking about suicide

Read more about common symptoms of depression.

Know the signs of suicidal ideation

A person who is experiencing bullying and having suicidal ideation may display certain behaviors that can be warning signs for a caregiver to look out for.

Some common warning signs that a person may be having suicidal ideation can include:

  • talking about death or wanting to die
  • feeling hopeless, worthless, or as though they have no way out
  • feeling guilty or shameful
  • feeling like a burden to others
  • feeling unbearable emotional or physical pain
  • feeling extreme sadness, anger, frustration, or anxiety
  • researching or making plans for death
  • showing an increase in alcohol or drug use
  • behaving recklessly and taking risks, such as driving dangerously
  • having extreme mood shifts
  • changing their eating or sleeping patterns
  • saying goodbye to friends and family, withdrawing from people, giving away possessions, or making a will
  • losing interest in personal hygiene and appearance

Suicide prevention

If you know someone at immediate risk of self-harm, suicide, or hurting another person:

  • Ask the tough question: “Are you considering suicide?”
  • Listen to the person without judgment.
  • Call 911 or the local emergency number, or text TALK to 741741 to communicate with a trained crisis counselor.
  • Stay with the person until professional help arrives.
  • Try to remove any weapons, medications, or other potentially harmful objects.

If you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, a prevention hotline can help. The 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is available 24 hours a day at 988. During a crisis, people who are hard of hearing can use their preferred relay service or dial 711 then 988.

Find more links and local resources.

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Work with a professional

If a caregiver suspects that a person may be experiencing bullying and having suicidal ideation, it is important they listen to the person and show that they are there to support them.

A person may not readily want to speak about what they are experiencing, so it may be beneficial for them to speak with a mental health professional.

According to the CDC, there is a strong link between bullying behavior and suicidal ideation.

Bullying can lead to several health conditions, including depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem. A person who experiences bullying may experience a decline in academic performance, withdraw from social activities, have trouble sleeping, and develop issues with eating.

A person who is bullying other people may be more at risk of substance use, poor academic performance, and violent behaviors toward others in adulthood.

There are several signs that a person may be experiencing bullying and suicidal ideation that a caregiver can look out for. These include withdrawal from friends, family, and activities, feelings of extreme sadness, loneliness, and worthlessness, reckless behavior, and an increase in substance use.

If a caregiver believes a child is experiencing bullying or engaging in bullying behaviors, they can speak with the school or a mental health professional.