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Bullied to the brink : an investigation of students at risk for depression & suicidal ideation Bonanno, Rina Angela


The purpose of the present study was to gain a clearer understanding of why it is that some adolescents who are involved in bully/victim problems are more negatively impacted than others. Drawing from research in the areas of bullying, suicide, and exposure to violence, two theoretically derived models that seek to explain potential paths between involvement in bullying behaviour and depression and suicidal ideation were investigated. First, it was hypothesized that hopelessness would act as a mediator between victimization and suicidal ideation and second, that perceived social support would interact with involvement in bullying behaviour to predict depression and suicidal ideation. Additionally, it was predicted that witnessing bullying would be positively associated with both depression and suicidal ideation. Students in grades 8 - 10 (N = 399) completed self-report measures assessing involvement in bullying (as either a victim, bully, bully-victim or witness), type of bullying (physical, verbal, social and cyber), depressive symptomatology, suicidal ideation, hopelessness (general and social), perceived social support (family and friend) and moral disengagement. Results indicated that social hopelessness did partially mediate the relation between victimization and suicidal ideation. This finding suggests that a potential mechanism by which victimized students become suicidal is through victimization's impact on social hopelessness and that the more socially hopeless someone becomes the greater their risk for having suicidal thoughts. Findings also revealed that perceived social support had a buffering effect on the relation between victimization and depression/suicidal ideation such that victimized students with higher perceived social support reported lower levels of depression and suicidal ideation than did students with lower perceived social support. Additionally, results from the present study demonstrated a significant relation between all forms of involvement in cyber bullying (as a victim, bully, bully-victim and witness) and both depression and suicidal ideation. Finally, findings revealed that witnessing bullying was significantly positively associated with both depression and suicidal ideation, however, associations were more robust for those witnessing friends being bullied than those witnessing others being bullied. Taken together, these findings suggest potential risk and protective factors that help explain why some children involved in bully/victim problems are at greater risk for depression and suicidal ideation than other children.

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