There have been a number of high-profile, tragic, incidents of bullied children committing suicide. School violence – most recently the shooting at Maryland’s Perry Hall High School – has also been regularly linked to bullying, usually with the explanation of a bullying victim seeking revenge. But researchers say the connection between both school shootings and suicide is far more tenuous than popular media reports would have us believe. The media coverage of the 1999 Columbine High School shootings put the idea of the loner, bullied students taking out their anger through violence; author Dave Cullen, who was one of the reporters covering the story, spent the next decade researching his book “Columbine,” untangling the myths of trench coats and outsiders he says his media colleagues created.
“We all knew what happened there, right?” he wrote about Columbine in a New York Times soon after this summer’s mass shooting in Aurora, Colo. “Two outcast loners exacted revenge against the jocks for relentlessly bullying them.
“Not one bit of that turned out to be true."
As far as suicide: While research has found that victims of bullying do face serious psychological challenges and is associated with an increased risk of self harm, there are typically other mental and situational factors also underlying suicides. The Centers for Disease Control found that suicide was the third leading cause of death for youth between ages of 10 and 24; it lists a number of risk factors, including depression, alcohol abuse to easy access to firearms.