When bullying leads to suicide

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PETALING JAYA: A psychologist has warned parents, teachers and guardians that bully victims could end up committing suicide if they do not get the support they need and if the bullying continues for a long period.

“Bullying, whether it takes place in the school or home environment, affects the victim’s self-esteem in a very profound way,” said Dr Goh Cheng Leong, the dean of HELP University’s Faculty of Behavioural Sciences.

He told FMT there had “certainly” been cases where bullying had led students to suicide.

Goh’s warning follows a news report last month that a Year 6 pupil survived a fall from the third floor of a primary school building in Klang.

According to Klang Selatan district police chief Alzafny Ahmad, investigators found a chair on the third floor at the corridor adjacent to the girl’s classroom. Police believe she climbed on it and jumped.

Alzafny was also quoted as saying that the girl had told her father she did not want to go to school as she did not get along with the other students.

Goh said bullying tended to make the victim end up feeling lonely.

“Bullying isolates the victims and makes them feel very alone. This may lead them to suicide, especially if the level of suffering is high and they feel helpless.”

Asked what he thought were the reasons some students became bullies, Goh said: “There are many different factors. Different bullies have different reasons for becoming bullies.”

He cautioned against excusing those who became bullies for reasons that might seem understandable.

“It may well be true that they have difficult environments, whether in school or at home, or that they were bullied themselves. But whatever it is, I think it’s important that the bullies, as individuals, take responsibility for choosing to act the way they do when they don’t need to.”

Meanwhile, lawyer Sangeet Kaur Deo has warned schools to be proactive in dealing with bullies and bully victims, saying they could otherwise face legal consequences.

According to her, the parents of any bullied student who commits suicide have the right to sue the school where the bullying occurred.

“You can take legal action against the bullies themselves, but I think you should name the school as well,” she told FMT.