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Friday, August 6, 1999 Published at 01:16 GMT 02:16 UK


Bullies 'even unhappier than their victims'

Many children are bullied at school

Many bullies are almost as prone to depression, and even more likely to have strong suicidal urges than those they bully, a study suggests.

It is obvious that bullied children can suffer from depression - and tragic cases have illustrated the risk of suicide.

But the Finnish investigation, published in the British Medical Journal, shows that the mental state of those behind the bullying can be even more precarious.

Bullying experts say that this is because bullies often have low self-esteem, or unhappy home lives.

One quarter of girl bullies depressed

Boys and girls between the ages of 14 and 16 were surveyed by researchers from the National Public Health Institute in Helsinki.

They found that a quarter of bullying girls were depressed - the same percentage as those complaining of being bullied.

Eight per cent of bullied girls had suicidal thoughts, and the same proportion of the bullies had experienced similar feelings.

[ image: Childline offers cofidential advice]
Childline offers cofidential advice
Among the boys, although fewer bullies were depressed, 8% of bullies had suicidal thoughts, as opposed to 4% of their victims.

About one in ten schoolchildren in the sample reported being bullied at least once a week at school.

The researchers noted: "Bullies need support for normal development to proceed, and any interventions should also recognise the role of depressive disorders in the background of their behaviour."

They called for psychiatric assessment of bullies as well as the bullied.

John Hall, childrens' services manager with Childline, a charity which runs counselling helplines for children, said that bullying behaviour could be a sign of unhappiness.

'A feeling of power'

He said: "Bullying is often linked with low self-esteem, and feelings of failure.

"Some of the bullies who talk to us describe family problems. Bullying often occurs in groups, and gives children a role, a sense of power, whereas in actual fact, that is not the case in their own lives."

He said that a "no blame" approach to the problem pioneered in schools could prove effective, although he warned that some bullies were driven only by the enjoyment of the act, and having the opportunity to do it.

Bullies or bullied children who would like to talk to someone in confidence can call Childline on (0800) 1111

Parents looking for advice can call Parentline on (01702) 559900

The Scottish Anti-Bullying Network can be contacted on (0131) 651 6100.

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