Bullying can increase risk of self-harm

Children, who are victims of bullying, might be of a greater risk of self-harming, a study has found. Published in the British Medical Journal, the research, carried out by a team from King's College London, highlighted how effected youngsters, up to the age of 12, could be three times more likely to purposefully injure themselves.

A range of factors which increase the likelihood of such actions were found. These included emotional and behavioural problems, maltreatment and a family history of self-harming. The problem appeared to be evident in both sexes, although rates were slightly higher for girls.

The researchers said "more effective programmes to prevent bullying occurring … are required", and noted moves should be made in order to help young people better cope with the emotional distress that accompanies such victimisation.

Definitions of bullying used by the team included regular use of hurtful words, exclusion, hitting, shoving, kicking, rumour spreading and telling lies.

Dr Cecelia D'Felice CPsychol, author of 21 Days to a New You, said: "We cannot overestimate the damage that can be done to our children’s self-esteem in their developmental years. 

"The adage 'Sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me' is demonstrably untrue.  

"It is time our attitude changes to the reality of what bullying has been shown to do to a child's nascent and vulnerable self-worth. That children who are bullied can go on to harm themselves informs us of the severity of the experience. 

"The need to project their unwanted feelings is natural but in finding no appropriate response or understanding the danger is that they end up turning on themselves.

"Educating young children by letting them know that words and deeds can and do hurt others, sometimes with life long repercussions, are essential first steps in helping children develop more caring social skills. 

"Importantly, we can also support our young children by taking seriously the upset they experience when suffering at the hands of bullies, whether from caregivers, authority figures or friends and classmates. 

"Helping them process the experience and offering them skills and strategies to manage and ultimately overcome bullying will protect them from developing chronic low self-esteem and in the worst cases self-harming behaviours.  

"Building our children's self-esteem is essential for their long-term mental health and by investing in our young generation now, individuals, communities and society in general will all benefit. 

"A country defined by caring and mutual respect for others is a country that thrives."