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We must act now to stem teen suicide problem before another death occurs

Blog Posts Decem­ber 17th2012

The team at SpunOut were extremely saddened to hear of another death by suicide which media reports this morning have reported may be to be linked to bullying.

“Our children need to realise there is nothing glamorous about suicide. It's ugly; it's painful. It tears families apart and whatever the problem is, it is not a solution” says SpunOut communications officer Ian Power.

“There are real solutions. There are people out there who are ready and willing to help you, no matter how low you're feeling - but they can only help you if you let them know that something is wrong.

“Countless adults can attest to one simple fact: it gets better. School is a vicious place, for some far more than others. But it gets better. It takes courage to have faith in your own future, but suicide eliminates the possibility that it will get better”.

We are calling for some immediate steps to be taken to address bullying and cyberbullying:

  • Parents in Ireland need to take a new approach to technology. Research (the EU Kids Online Report 2010) shows Irish parents are the most involved in the internet usage of their children however their involvement relates to rules, time limits and punishments. This is not necessarily negative but it is important parents let their children know they can come to them if they find themselves the victims of bullying, without fear of their access to phones or the internet being restricted, otherwise we risk children suffering in silence.
  • Parents and teachers should to speak to their children about words, the impact of them and how they can cause harm. This needs to be addressed urgently and discussions should take place in this week’s SPHE classes. Principals should, if they can, get an expert facilitator into their school to conduct workshops with all years and allow teachers time to develop and share lesson plans which deal with the topic of bullying on an ongoing basis.
  • Parents and teachers should go through the privacy of online accounts and phones as a matter of urgency with their children and speak to them about what to do if they find themselves at risk or a victim; such as refraining from replying to hurtful messages, keeping evidence of messages and speaking to someone who can help.
  • We need to let all of our children and young people know that suicide is never the answer to any problem. There is always someone they can talk to and things will get better.
  • We need to ensure every child and teen knows that being a bystander to bullying is unacceptable and to stand up for friends if they are in danger.
  • The Government need to provide urgent clarification as to whether current legislation offers any remedy to victims of bullying or cyberbullying (such as prosecution, barring or restraining orders) under Section 10 of the Non Fatal Offences Against the Persons Act 1997.
  • Establish a team within the Gardai to track IP addresses through internet service providers for quick identification of those engaging in bullying behaviour.
  • Roll out a strategic education programme in schools starting in primary education, and working through secondary schools to tackle the behaviour which is the root cause of the problem.

We must be mindful we do not know the full facts in this case but there is an urgent need for the media to be considered in their reporting to prevent a normalisation of suicide amongst young teens. The media, like the internet, is not to blame for these awful tragedies but it is important suicide is not presented as the answer to bullying.

For more information:

Ian Power, Communications Officer (083) 148 4527 or ian@spunout.ie