Factors causing mental illnesses - Part 2: Childhood bullying

Factors causing mental illnesses – Part 2: Childhood bullying

“Bullying builds character like nuclear waste creates superheroes. It’s a rare occurrence and often does much more damage than endowment.”

― Zack W. Van

Almost everyone is aware of the long-lasting impacts of bullying on one’s mental health, which can range from reduced self-esteem, poor school performance, depression to suicidal tendencies. However, not many studies have been conducted to determine the long-term psychological repercussions of bullying among adults, who, as children, were either bullies or the victims of bullying. However, a 2013 study published in the JAMA Psychiatry has found that adults who were bullies or were being bullied by others in childhood have a greater risk of developing mental health problems.

In the first article of the series, “Factors causing mental illnesses,” the integral relationship between parents’ mental illness and their children’s mental health problems in the long term was discussed in detail. While there may be several other external and biological factors that cause mental health problems, such as abusive parents, traumatic experiences, changes in the brain chemistry, there is a need to study bullying and its effects. As bullying is a common problem, its association with mental disorders can open new doors to understand mental health issues better. The current article brings forth some data and evidences to underline the importance to keep a check on the severe practice of bullying.

Both bullies and victims grow up with mental health problems

One of the largest studies examined 5,000 children in Finland when they reached the age of 8 years by filling in the questionnaires to assess their bullying behavior. In order to determine the changes in the mental conditions, along with asking questions about bullying to children, their parents and their teachers, a regular follow-up was conducted.

Based on the information collected, the children were divided into four groups that included children not involved in bullying; children who were the frequent victims of bullying, but did not bully others; children who were frequent bullies, but were not the targets; and children who were both a bully and the victim.

By examining the mental health outcomes of those in the age group of 16 to 29 based on both inpatient and outpatient visits, the researchers found that most of the children in the first group, or about 90 percent, were not involved in bullying, but about 12 percent had been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder before the age of 30.

Moreover, about 20 percent of those who were bullies as children needed medical treatment for mental issues as a teen or young adult, and 23 percent of the victims of frequent bullying had sought help for a psychiatric problem before the age of 30.

About 31 percent of the children who were bullies and were also being bullied had psychiatric problems as a teen or an adult. Compared to other groups, they witnessed the highest rates of depression, anxiety disorders, schizophrenia and substance abuse.

The study shows that being involved in bullying or being bullied can be a precursor of a range of mental health problems. While the exact reasons have not been identified yet, researchers say that children in the last group witness comparatively more vulnerable. This study was published in the JAMA Psychiatry in 2015.

Meanwhile, another study has found that bullying during childhood can be worse than maltreatment. Compared to maltreated children, those who were bullied suffered more severe mental health problems later in life. According to the lead author of the above study Dieter Wolke, Professor, University of Warwick Department of Psychology and Warwick Medical School, “The mental health outcomes we were looking for included anxiety, depression or suicidal tendencies. Our results showed those who were bullied were more likely to suffer from mental health problems than those who were maltreated.”

Early intervention is necessary

While it has been proven that childhood experiences can affect people later in life, one can effectively overcome the risk of developing mental health problems by seeking an early intervention. Rather than accepting bullying as a normal behavior, it is recommended to highlight and stop it before it starts affecting one’s mental health.

If you or your loved one has any kind of mental health issues, contact the California Mental Health Helpline to seek help from the mental health treatment centers in California. Call us at our 24/7 helpline number 855-559-3923 or chat online to connect with the best mental health facilities in California.

Read the other articles of the series “Factors causing mental illnesses:”

  1. Parents’ mental health contribute to their children’s well-being