Cyberbullying rarely sole link to suicide

Oct. 21, 2012 at 12:53 AM
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NEW ORLEANS, Oct. 21 (UPI) -- Cyberbullying only rarely is the sole factor identified in teen suicides, with many victims also suffering from depression, U.S. researchers suggest.

Dr. John C. LeBlanc, a professor at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia, said cyberbullying -- the use of the Internet, phones or other technologies to repeatedly harass or mistreat peers -- is often linked with teen suicide in media reports.

LeBlanc and colleagues searched the Internet for reports of youth suicides where cyberbullying was a reported a factor and also collected demographics.

The researchers identified 41 suicide cases -- 24 female, 17 male, ages 13-18 -- from the United States, Canada, Britain and Australia. Twenty-four percent of the teens were the victims of homophobic bullying, with half of those teens identified as homosexual and the other half identified as heterosexual or of unknown sexual preference.

Seventy-eight percent of the adolescents who committed suicide were bullied both at school and online, and only 17 percent were targeted online only. A mood disorder was reported in 32 percent of the teens, and depression symptoms in an additional 15 percent, LeBlanc, the study author, said.

"Cyberbullying is a factor in some suicides, but almost always there are other factors such as mental illness or face-to-face bullying," LeBlanc said in a statement. "Cyberbullying usually occurs in the context of regular bullying."

The findings were presented at the American Academy of Pediatrics National Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans.

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