The media, educational, and political craze around “bullying” focuses on the symptom, not the underlying problem, in teen suicide cases.
In today’s opinion section of Cleveland’s Plain Dealer newspaper, I responded to a recent story on teen suicides in a neighboring county in a letter to the editor entitled, “Bullying: Rarely is it the only cause of a young person’s suicide“:
Monday’s headline “Suicides put focus on bullying issue in Mentor” should have read, “Suicides put focus on youth mental health issues.”
Expert Madelyn Gould noted that more than 90 percent of suicides stem from underlying psychiatric problems such as depression, anxiety or substance abuse, and that suicide is never caused by one thing.
Gould accurately said kids’ coping skills and support for dealing with bullying and other stressors vary. School shootings have revealed undiagnosed or untreated mental health issues as underlying contributors to violence.
Special-interest advocates, legislators, the federal government and the media are increasingly, and wrongly, oversimplifying and narrowly attributing violent teen acts to “bullying.” This generates skewed policy and funding emphasis on one cause and one solution for youth suicides and violence. The issues are typically more complex and require a deeper, more comprehensive approach.
Bullying is an issue and one that must be treated seriously as part of a comprehensive approach to school safety. No one wants to see a parent lose his or her child.
Most schools have policies, student conduct codes and climate strategies already available that can effectively address bullying. New laws and lawsuits will not solve the problem. It takes school leadership and total community involvement beyond the schoolhouse to make it happen.
Kenneth S. Trump, Cleveland
Trump is the president of National School Safety and Security Services.
What say you?
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