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expert reaction to study looking at bullying, anxiety and depression in childhood and adolescence

A new study, published in JAMA Psychiatry, examined the concurrent and longitudinal contribution of exposure to bullying to mental health in childhood and adolescence.


Dr Michael Bloomfield, Clinical Lecturer in General Psychiatry, UCL, said:

“This new large well conducted study used robust methods to investigate the effects of childhood bullying on later risk of mental illnesses illness. In line with previous research, this study adds weight to growing body of research that adverse experiences in childhood including bullying (i.e. maltreatment by peers) causally increase the risk of mental illnesses. Despite this research we still don’t properly understand the mechanisms underlying this increase in vulnerability associated with all forms of childhood maltreatment and trauma. It is essential that we urgently investigate how these adverse experiences alter brain function to give rise to symptoms of mental illness.”


Dr Bernadka Dubicka, FRCPsych, Chair of Child and Adolescent Faculty, Royal College of Psychiatrists, said:

“This is a very large detailed study, which has carefully examined the effects of bullying on young people in the longer term. Although there are many reasons why young people develop mental health difficulties, this study confirms what we already know, namely that bullying can have serious effects on young people’s mental health for a long time.

“The good news is that some young people will recover from their difficulties, however it is vital that schools have whole school bullying approaches to help tackle this problem, and also that we can provide adequate mental health services to support young people when they are in distress.

“Unfortunately, not only are CCGs failing to commit money and resources to our children and young people, but we are also experiencing a major shortfall in child and adolescent psychiatrists across the country. Access to timely treatment is important, but it requires specialist mental health professionals such as child and adolescent psychiatrists who are uniquely placed to provide the right services to those in need.”


* ‘Concurrent and Longitudinal Contribution of Exposure to Bullying in Childhood to Mental Health: The Role of Vulnerability and Resilience’ by Singham et al. published in JAMA Psychiatry on Wednesday 4th October.


Declared interests

None declared.

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