'Bullying' link to child suicide rate, charity suggests

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A bullying prevention charity has called for more official data on child suicide and research into its causes.

Beatbullying found that up to 44% of suicides among 10- to 14-year-olds may be bullying-related.

The charity said 26 out of the 59 cases reported in the national media were linked to intimidating behaviour.

Its report was published to mark the second anniversary of the death of 13-year-old Sam Leeson.

Beatbullying said the Office of National Statistics had recorded 176 cases of suicides of 10- to 14-year-olds between 2000 and 2008 in England, Scotland and Wales.

It then searched national press reports on the issue and said at least 14% (26 of 176) were clearly linked by the press to bullying.

However, the press covered only 59 cases and the charity thinks up to 78 of the total could have been related to bullying.

It also said nearly every bullying-related suicide identified the school as the main source of the bullying.

Call for action

Emma-Jane Cross, chief executive of Beatbullying, said: "The connection between bullying and child suicide is undeniably clear and the lack of clarity and research in this area is unacceptable.

"We need action and we need it now."

She called on the coalition government to honour its commitment to reducing bullying in schools and to back the funding of anti-bullying programmes in every school.

Ms Cross said analysing the data had been a challenge because of the "worrying lack" of information available and the "complex controls around the release of information concerning child suicide in the UK".

Sarah Dyer, the charity's director of new media, told the BBC: "We would like to see wider information being made available from coroners' courts and the Office of National Statistics to understand the reasons why these young people take their own lives."

Beatbullying called for more to be invested into schemes such as its peer mentoring website, CyberMentors.

'Devastating' consequences

Sam Leeson's mother Sally Cope also urged the government to take action and make it easier to access information on child suicide.

She said: "Two years ago my 13-year-old son Sam took the tragic decision to take his own life as a result of bullying, so I know from personal experience just how devastating the consequences of bullying can be, and the void Sam's death has left in my family."

Last year, a coroner said he was not sure if Sam's actions were deliberate or the unintended consequences of "experimental action".

There was no evidence of bullying submitted to the hearing by his school or family.

But Sam, from Tredworth, Gloucester, was reportedly victimised online because of his dark clothes, long hair and love of alternative "Emo" music.

Mourners at his funeral were told by the vicar that his tormentors murdered him as surely "as if someone has killed him with a gun".

Education Secretary Michael Gove said: "It's unacceptable for even one child to be bullied - that's why I have made tackling bullying a top priority.

"Our Education and Children's Bill in the autumn will put heads and teachers in control, giving them a range of tough new powers to deal with indiscipline, including bullying."

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