Bullying accounts for up to 44% of child suicides

13 June 2010 

Beatbullying releases research today revealing that as many as 44% of suicides committed by young people in the UK are due to bullying, but more research into child suicide is absolutely critical.

We reviewed data obtained from the Office of National Statistics (ONS), and correlated it with a systematic content analysis of national media reports.  As a result, our research team was able to analyse a third of child suicides, giving a substantial sample, and a real insight into the factors behind each death.

From 2000-2008, the ONS recorded 176 suicides of 10-14 year-olds.  Beatbullying undertook a comprehensive search of the Nexis database to examine the number of these suicides reported in the national media.  Of the 59 cases covered by the national media, 26 were connected to bullying (44%).  Only cases where bullying was identified clearly, and without doubt, as a contributing factor in the decision to end the life were counted and included in this figure. The research was independently verified by Dr Benjamin Richardson at Warwick University.

Despite the lack of information surrounding the remaining suicides, we assert the true number of suicides committed by young people aged 10-14 because they were being bullied is far larger, and could be as many as 78 in the nine year period.

Furthermore, the ONS recorded an additional 1,769 suicides of 15-19 year olds between 2000 and 2008.  As a result, the total number of adolescent suicides that are directly related to bullying could shockingly reach into the hundreds.

The data on suicides of 10-14 year olds collated by Beatbullying points towards a higher tendency of suicide among young girls, with 65% of bullying related suicides committed by girls.  73% of suicides were committed by hanging, whilst six cases involved the young person taking an overdose of pills.

Beatbullying publishes these figures to mark the second anniversary of Sam Leeson’s death, the 13 year old who hanged himself after a prolonged onslaught of bullying both off and online.
In its report, Beatbullying notes that every child suicide case related to bullying cited school as the main place of persecution.

Of these, four cases also named cyber bullying – where bullying takes place online, by email and on social networking sites – as a factor leading to the child taking their own life.

Beatbullying today calls for the new Government to honour its commitment to reduce bullying in schools and to take swift action and work with schools, industry and third sector organisations to fund anti-bullying programmes in every school.   The charity will also continue to campaign for greater openness and research around the causes of child suicide so our society can better understand why children feel driven to take their own lives.

Emma –Jane Cross, chief executive of Beatbullying, said:
“The connection between bullying and child suicide is undeniably clear and the lack of clarity and research in this area is unacceptable - we need action and we need it now.

Government need to take a long, hard look at the issue to understand why children as young as ten are taking their own lives.

“It’s a distressing subject but one which must be investigated as a matter of urgency if we’re to help our young people and prevent them taking such desperate action – suicide should never feel like the only option for any child or young person.  

“Beatbullying welcomes the fact that the new coalition Government has made a commitment to tackling bullying in schools and we urge them to take notice of this research and act swiftly to implement bullying prevention programmes in every school in this country. The new administration has a real opportunity and responsibility to reach those very vulnerable children who are so badly bullied that they contemplate suicide.

“We’re looking to our new leadership to catalyse debate around the factors which are pushing children to suicide and put in place effective measures that tackle the problem.

“Analysing the data available has been challenging as there is a worrying lack of information available on child suicide and the factors behind every case are not always recorded or investigated.  As a result of the complex controls around the release of information concerning child suicide in the UK, our analysis comes from an extensive and systematic content analysis of national newspaper reports, which begins to provide us with an insight into the reasons behind a child making the decision to end their own life.  The research reveals that bullying is a common factor in as many as 44% of child suicides.

 “The success of schemes such as our peer mentoring site CyberMentors, which has seen over 400,000 children access the site over the last year, shows that with clear help and advice the victims of bullying can be given a way forward with practical steps to deal with the situation.”
Education Secretary Michael Gove said:

“It’s unacceptable for even one child to be bullied – that’s why I have made tackling bullying a top priority. Our Education and Children’s Bill in the autumn will put heads and teachers in control, giving them a range of tough new powers to deal with indiscipline, including bullying.”

Sally Cope, mother of bullying victim Sam Leeson, commented:
“I’d like to congratulate Beatbullying for releasing this research and highlighting the shocking lack of available data. Two years ago my thirteen year old son Sam took the tragic decision to take his own life as a result of bullying, so I know from personal experience just how devastating the consequences of bullying can be, and the void Sam’s death has left in my family. I urge the Government to take action to fund anti bullying work in schools and make the information regarding child suicides available so that organisations such as Beatbullying can work alongside them to prevent further deaths.”

Beatbullying is extremely concerned by the lack of information available or research into the factors that might lead to a child taking their own life. A comprehensive and systematic study of the scale of bullying related suicides is needed so that preventative measures can be put in place.
The Government can offer critical protection to our children by funding schemes like CyberMentors as well as bullying prevention programmes in schools; it is vital that young people know where to go to access immediate help and support.

Any young person experiencing bullying or who just needs someone to talk to is urged to visit cybermentors.org.uk or to contact the Samaritans or Childline for urgent support.

For more information, interviews with a Beatbullying spokesperson/Sam Leeson’s mother, or further statistics please contact:

Frank PR –Mira Ryness or Lizzie Earl|miraryness@frankpr.it |lizzieearl@frankpr.it | 0207 693 6999
Beatbullying - Sherry Adhami | sherry.adhami@beatbullying.org | 0781 400 4963


Beatbullying’s research of national media reports from suicides occurring from 2000 – 2008 of 10 - 14 year-olds found that:

  • In England, Scotland and Wales there were 176 recorded suicides of 10-14 year olds. 
  • A third of these suicides (59) were reported in the British national press. 
  • Of the remaining 117 cases not reported in the national media, no information was able to be ascertained.
  • Of the reported suicides 44% (26) were reported as being bullying related.
  • Of the reported suicides 61% were committed by girls. 
  • Of the 26 bullying related suicides 65% of the victims were female.
  • 73% used hanging as the method of suicide.
  • Nearly every bullying related suicide identified the school as the main source of the bullying.

About Beatbullying
Beatbullying is the UK’s leading bullying prevention charity.  Founded in 1999, Beatbullying empowers young people to lead anti-bullying campaigns in their schools and local communities, and builds the capacity of local communities to sustain the work.  Beatbullying has directly and indirectly worked with 700,000+ young people over the last seven years, assisting and supporting young people that are being bullied, re-educating and changing the behaviour of young people that bully and preventing bullying in schools and communities across the UK.

About CyberMentors
Cybermentors.org.uk is a safe, social networking site providing information and support for young people being bullied or cyber bullied. Young people, aged 11-25, are trained as CyberMentors, in schools and online, so that they can offer support to their peers. Encapsulated by cutting edge technology, it is a safe website where young people can turn to other young people for help and advice. CyberMentors are also supported by trained counsellors, available online if needed. CyberMentors is a Beatbullying project.



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