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Saturday 16 December 2017

Bullying-related suicide is on the rise among our teens

Colin Gleeson

DOZENS of young Irish teenagers have fallen victim to the same fate as Phoebe Prince, who took her own life after being tormented by bullies, Ireland's leading bullying expert has warned.

Tragic Phoebe (15), who was originally from Co Clare, took her own life after an orchestrated campaign of hatred against her by classmates in the US.

Latest figures from the Central Statistics Office reveal more than 70 teenagers under 17 took their own lives between 2006 and last September.

There is no data available that provides an explanation of the factors involved in these deaths.

However, Trinity College's Anti-Bullying Centre founder Mona O'Moore last night revealed she was aware that the Phoebe case had been mirrored here "at least four times" in the past 12 months alone.

And she said that she was in "no doubt" the extent of bullying Phoebe was subjected to was happening "on a grand scale" in this country.

"Not only is the Phoebe Prince case something that could happen here -- it already has happened here.

"I have knowledge of cases about youngsters who have died by suicide as a result of bullying after just getting so depressed," Dr O'Moore told the Irish Independent.

"Within the last year, I've heard of at least four secondary school students who died by suicide because of bullying. There was also one eight-year-old who took that drastic step."

Dr O'Moore criticised the Government for not doing enough to combat the problem.

"I'm appealing to them to put checks in place so they can monitor whether schools are actually implementing anti-bullying policies," she said.

Irish Association of Suicidology founder John Connolly also said there was "no doubt" teenagers were dying by suicide because of bullying in this country. "It does happen. Suicide is multi-faceted but certainly bullying can be a factor. In my own clinical practice, I would meet a lot of people who are very depressed about being bullied and maybe suicidal," he said.

In 2007, Leanne Wolfe, from Co Cork, took her own life just two weeks after her 18th birthday following years of torment from a gang of girl bullies.

After her death, her devastated parents discovered her diary which revealed a cruel campaign against her involving messages on websites, mobile phone abuse, threats, horrific rumours, bald patches torn in her hair, and a black eye.

Leanne's mother, Colette, last night told how she had originally thought her daughter's case was "an extreme one" but later discovered otherwise.

"After her death, we were inundated with people coming to us with similar stories," she told the Irish Independent.

"We had a couple who came to our door and told us about their 15-year-old daughter who had twice attempted to take her own life because of bullying.

Struggling

"Another little girl wrote to Leanne's Bebo email after her death and said she knew what it was like to be lonely and bullied. She said she was really struggling and didn't want to live. I wrote to her and told her how glad we were that she had written to Leanne and that she shouldn't be scared and should tell someone," Colette said.

The Department of Education's National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) is charged with enabling schools to deal with traumatic events.

"In relation to suicide, advice is given on prevention," a spokeswoman said. "NEPS psychologists also attend schools following such incidents."

She added that about 100 requests were made every year "involving the full range of trauma types". But the group does not record specific incidents of suicide within these interventions.

Irish Independent

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