'Bullycide' a trendy term, but one that should be avoided

Although media reports about children and teenagers committing suicide because of bullying seem to be increasing, “bullycide” is a misleading term that should be avoided, says Dr. Betsy Kennard, a psychologist at UT Southwestern Medical Center. Suicidal thoughts and behavior are often the result of multiple factors in a child’s life and can’t solely be attributed to bullying.

“A teenager or child who is stressed, withdrawing or having relationship issues may be more tempted to consider suicide if they are also being bullied,” she says. “That’s why if an adult notices bullying, it’s important for them to address the problem.”

It’s also OK to ask about thoughts of suicide.

“Adults can fear that asking can make the problem worse, but discussing it with a supportive adult is the best way to help the child,” Dr. Kennard says.

Other things to keep in mind if an adult suspects suicidal thoughts or behaviors are a child’s attempt to escape from bullying and other problems:

  • Notify school personnel if bullying is identified;
  • Seek an evaluation from a professional. Suicidal thoughts and behaviors are often linked to depression, for which effective treatments are available;
  • Listen. That can make it more likely for the suicidal person to get professional help;
  • Help the child to understand that these feelings and thoughts are temporary and that there are solutions;
  • Brainstorm ways for the child to react to the bullying; and<
  • If suicidal urges/behaviors are serious, take the child to the emergency room. Don’t leave him or her alone. Do remove firearms, drugs and sharp objects.


Media Contact: LaKisha Ladson