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Mental Mondays: The Connection Between Childhood Bullying And Suicide In Adults

Mental Mondays: The Connection Between Childhood Bullying And Suicide In Adults


The increasing cases of childhood bullying being reported in schools have become appalling, to put it mildly. Notwithstanding, this is not the only scenario where childhood bullying occurs. The effect of bullying on the home front is said to have the same lethal results. When a parent constantly bullies their kids, when a group of classmates make school unbearable for “weaker” students, and an enabling society cheering on this illicit act.

According to a Cambridge research: “Adults who reported bullying in childhood were more than twice as likely as other adults to attempt suicide later in life.”

Simply put, there is a significant connection between childhood bullying and suicide in adults. These victims of bullying have a higher tendency of growing up with a void filled with feelings of inadequacy. These might become adults with an identity crisis, shattered self-esteem, and a nagging feeling to end the journey through this cruel world.

These are a few scenarios that strengthen the link between childhood bullying and suicide in adults…

#1. Childhood bullying from the home front

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“My sister Hannah attempted suicide countless times. She has been in and out of rehab for drug addictions, and she is barely winging it through life. We never leave her unsupervised for fear of her volatile actions. I blame my parents, they loved their reputation more than their children. Hannah could not take the constant bullying and she snapped. At first, I believe she started off feeling rebellious in an attempt to soil our parents’ reputation, the main reason why she got pregnant as a teenager even though our parents are ministers.”

“Way before she became a teenage mom, Hannah and I were constantly bullied by our parents. From verbal abuse to military-level punishments. They would threaten to kill us if we ever brought shame on the family name. They had all sorts of methods to batter our self-esteem. We always wondered if we were truly their children or maybe adopted.”

The major thing to deduce from the above case study is the clear and undeniable link between childhood bullying and suicide in adults. This brings tears to my eyes knowing that parents who should be a form of security to their children could be so damaging to their mental health.

#2. Bullying in schools

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This is the most common cause of bullying in childhood. In the western world, the cool kids pick on the nerds while in Africa, students in higher classes bully the junior students. They dish out unimaginable physical punishments, collect the victim’s food items, money, or any valuables and spice it up with threats in case the victim decides to expose them.

A friend of mine called me, he was supposed to be having fun at his school reunion after a decade of graduation but instead, he sounded so livid and bitter. The issue? He saw a guy who used to bully him back in school. It took the might of Samson for my friend to control himself and not throw a punch. This was years after the deed had been done. The other guy had moved on, he was even trying to exchange pleasantries with my friend who gave him the cold shoulder. This guy in question had no idea the long-term effect of bullying on his victims. He felt: “Well, that was in the past. You know how kids act. We are grown now. You can’t possibly still be mad?”

#3. Cyberbullying on children

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Obviously, this is the digital age and hoarding helpful gadgets that can expose children to better educational exploits might not be the best approach. Notwithstanding, exposing children to the harsh traps of cyberbullies has a ripple effect on their self-esteem. As an adult, I’ve seen celebrities and influencers deactivate/suspend their accounts to heal from a backlash.

Then imagine children in their formative years exposed to this level of toxicity. They are being mocked for not looking like the fallacious standard of beauty created by mainstream media. This will only increase the link between childhood bullying and suicide in adults. There have been situations where these kids grow into adulthood with the inability to shake the experiences off. As teenagers or even adults, they decide the fight is not worth and cave into the pressure of committing suicide.

Other effects of childhood bullying

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There are no positive effects of being bullied, some have sworn that it makes you stronger and independent, but that’s a very toxic way to learn to survive. Aside from suicide, bullying has accounted for a higher level of depression, anxiety, poor grades and varying psychotic issues. A popular saying goes: “hurting people hurt people.” It’s not a surprising occurrence for a victim of bullying to become a bully. There’s a feeling of temporary joy it gives to be able to instill the same pain on others, “Oh! It was done to me. It’s my time now.” Then you go ahead and hurt others, this pattern is hard to break. Some grow up into abusive partners and parents. This cycle has to be broken consciously or it would continue gaining momentum, generation after generation.

How to break the link between childhood bullying and suicide in adults (especially for you or loved ones)…

#1. Confront the pain

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It might have been an older family member sexually abusing you, it might have been your guardian(s) bullying you because you didn’t grow up with your real parents, it might have been your parents fighting half the time, and then transferring the aggression on you…it might have been anything! We grow up trivializing these experiences, we fake laugh about it but deep down the wounds still hurt. Face it: this happened to you and it wasn’t your fault. A lot of us blame ourselves for being bullied but that’s not the truth. A bully is most times wounded and looking for a subject to project all that hurt. You were the victim. This doesn’t mean to wallow in self-pity but to solve a problem, there has to be a genuine acknowledgement that a problem does exist in the first place.

#2. Perception is stronger than reality

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Personally, I know the trap of dwelling on your pain and what you feed is bound to grow. If you continue to regurgitate this circumstance and hold on too tightly, its effect on you would be lethal. You would wake up one day and not recognize the person staring back at you in the mirror.

You can start by changing your thought pattern and of course, it is easier said but trust me, that’s exactly what you need. Set new goals. Try to remember the things you used to love and set aside time to participate in them. Write down words of affirmation. Read good books on self-esteem, listen to uplifting podcasts within these lines. You are what you allow into your system. Be it food or words.

#3. Choose your wellbeing

After centuries of individuals living for everyone but themselves, the wave of self-care has finally come to shore. The tides might be high but you need to hold on. Being a victim of bullying in any form has its effect even on the person’s health. It’s time to put you first, your health, emotions etc. All these years, you let all these negativities take the driver’s seat while you sit down in the backseat of your OWN life! No way you’re letting that continue. Seek help, and talk to a professional. Whether it’s a doctor to diagnose whatever health issues might have arisen from this. Start trying out things you love. Find new hobbies. Choose a healthier lifestyle. Start chasing your dreams unapologetically and most importantly, remember that you are enough!

#4. Seek help

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This point has been raised somewhere in this writeup, but to reiterate on the importance of this move, it needs a sub-header of its own. This might include group therapy, cognitive therapy, and a support system.
When it comes to childhood bullying and suicide in adults, victims have recorded significant weight lifted off their shoulders by talking to people who have been through the same situation. It always feels uplifting when you know that you are not alone and there are people who actually “get it”. Many survivors of bullying have an ample amount of empathy for others and although it might be triggering, they are more inclined to offer practical help.

Cognitive therapy on the other hand deals with the principle of replacement. The therapist helps the victim create a new perception as an adult and over time the victim learns how to superimpose this new mindset over the hurtful childhood perception. For example; if a person was bullied because they possess a particular physical trait, the child in them would hate that trait and always seek to hide it in order to confirm with the societal standards. As an adult, the therapist can help the victim start to see that they are not the problem but the bullies have their own issues to deal with and decided to project it on others. This will help the victim start to heal knowing that sometimes, people are cruel and it has nothing to do with you. Also, it helps a person take charge, knowing never to allow anyone to bully them or even their loved ones in the future.

#5. Be patient

Little drops of water make a mighty ocean and soon, the effects of taking charge of your healing process will gradually become evident. As the years go by without healing, the issues keep layering on each other. Hence, the reason to be patient and trust the process. There are lots of unhealthy habits and mindsets to break out from.

Always recognize the changes whether small or big. Acknowledge the growth and make a big deal of it. That’s how you continue to do it, till you wake up to a whole different person who loves life, is grateful for the opportunity to live it and is fueled to chase after their dreams and bring it to fruition.

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