Cyberbullying and Prevention of Adolescent Suicide
Contribution by: Carol Chung
Senior Clinical Psychologist of the Health Promotion Branch of the Department of Health
What is Cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying refers to a type of bullying which involves the use of digital technologies to intentionally and repeatedly harass, insult or carry out any other acts that cause harm or distress to another person (s). Cyberbullying commonly takes place through emails, text messages, social media platforms, or online gaming platforms. It could occur in different forms, such as rumour spreading, posting of pictures and videos, impersonation, cyberstalking, and exclusion. With the rise of social media and online interactions, cyberbullying is becoming increasingly commonplace.
Impacts of Cyberbullying on Suicide and Mental Health Among Adolescents
Studies from different countries repeatedly found that there are significant correlations between cyberbullying victimisation and suicide ideation in adolescents. Cyberbullying may as well cause adverse impacts on adolescents’ psychological well-being. Studies consistently found that victims are often subjected to mental health issues, including distress, depression or anxiety, and may have feelings of low self-esteem, isolation, helplessness or hopelessness, which in turn increases the risk of self-harm or even suicide ideations or attempts.
Prevention and Management of Cyberbullying and Suicide
- We should have knowledge and awareness of the warning signs of cyberbullying and suicide.
Common Warning Signs of Cyberbullying include
- Changing behavioural patterns or frequency of computer or mobile phone usage
- Suffering from anxiety or distress when/after using the Internet or social media
- Displaying reluctance to go to school or social activities
Common Warning Signs of Suicide include
- Losing interest or motivation to participate in activities that previously enjoyed
- Feeling sad persistently
- Experiencing anger, heightened irritability or frustration
- Having remarkable behavioural changes or social withdrawal
- Experiencing marked increase or reduction in appetite or sleep duration
- The feeling of worthlessness or lack of purpose in life
- Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
- Looking for ways and sites for suicide online or in books
- Having a suicide note
- Keeping charcoal, a lot of pills, knives or other lethal objects
- We may follow the below examples of tips to achieve digital literacy, stay safe in cyberspace and prevent cyberbullying.
- Refraining from sharing or disclosing personal information
- Communicating only with individuals you know in real life on the Internet
- Setting up strong passwords and changing them regularly
- Avoiding opening unidentified or suspicious emails and attachments
- We may also help the victims, for example, by
- Discussing with and listening to them to show support
- Reporting to the service providers to request for blocking or removal of the related content
- Calling for intervention from law enforcement officials if the acts or even threats are considered to be criminal
- Seek help from the community resources below as soon as possible if an individual ever shows signs of suicide.
a. Suicide Prevention Services
- 24-Hour Suicide Prevention Hotline:2382 0000
b. The Samaritans
- 24-Hour Multi-lingual Hotline:2896 0000
c. ‘Open Up’ – a Youth Emotional Support Online Platform by the Hong Kong Jockey Club
- Facebook & Instagram: hkopenup
- WhatsApp: 9101 2012 (24-Hour)
d. The Richmond Fellowship of Hong Kong
- 24-Hour Mental Health Support Hotline:3512 2626
e. Social Welfare Department
- Hotline:2343 2255
f. Hospital Authority
- 24-Hour Mental Health Direct:2466 7350