Being a teenager has never been easy. Nowadays, however, teens are faced with even more challenges as cyberbullying is on the rise. A recent teen suicide in central Switzerland, which has been linked to cyberbullying, demonstrated just how devastating the consequences of this phenomenon can be.
What is cyberbullying?
Cyberbullying has been around for a long time, however, there has been a recent increase in campaigns provoking suicide and destabilizing people who are already struggling.
Cyberbullying is the use of technology to harass, embarrass, or target another person, it is anything that gets posted online with the intention to hurt or harass someone. Unlike the real world, cyberspace provides bullies with a shield that keeps them from having to directly face the person they are tormenting and therefore is often more aggressive and traumatic for the victim. Cyberbullying can occur on social media platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, or Tik Tok, via text messaging or various messaging apps, online forums, email, online message boards, etc.
Why does it happen?
There can be many reasons why someone would do this. Similar to face-to-face bullying, some of the causes include low self-esteem, peer pressure, power hunger, desire to be popular, lack of empathy, ignorance in regards to consequences, etc. What makes cyberbullying different is that bullies feel more hidden and as a result, the bullying is often more brutal.
Naturally, we rush to identify the antagonist in any situation. In this case, however, as hard as it may be, it is important to remember that on the other side of this is likely another hurt child. It is truly devastating how many people, including children, are currently dealing with high levels of distress, while not having the tools and support systems that they need.
What can we do about it?
The feeling of shame, guilt, and fear can prevent people from speaking up or trying to deal with the problem. Sometimes the person is not even sure if they’re being bullied, so they don’t do anything about it. It is important to report any kind of harassment or assault. No one is meant to face this alone.
Parents don’t have it easy these days. It can be very challenging for a parent to find the balance between giving the young person their independence and monitoring their online activity. The fact is that being online is now a major part of a teen’s social life. As we know, social inclusion and connection is what matters most at this age. Naturally, several issues and concerns arise as children and young adults spend more time online. The variety of online content is endless, while the regulations and monitoring are limited and targeting is often unethical.
What can one do as a parent? First of all, it is important for a person to have the ability and awareness to evaluate their own mental health and how their interaction with technology is affecting them. A parent can provide much-needed guidance in this regard.
Secondly, having healthy relationships is what keeps people safe. It is important to assess your child’s ability to navigate relationships generally and make sure they have the tools necessary in dealing with various social situations. Another important aspect is ensuring that the young person has activities, hobbies, or additional social substitutes in the real world to counterbalance their online life.
Mental Health First Aid – How to help in an emotional crisis
Spotting the Signs
One of the most common signs of emotional crisis is a clear and abrupt change in behavior. Some examples include:
- Neglect of personal hygiene.
- Dramatic change in sleep habits, such a sleeping more often or not sleeping well.
- Weight gain or loss.
- Decline in performance at work or school.
- Pronounced changes in mood, such as irritability, anger, anxiety or sadness.
- Withdrawal from routine activities and relationships.
Sometimes, these changes happen suddenly and obviously. Events such as a natural disaster or the loss of a job can bring on a crisis in a short period of time. Often, though, behavior changes come about gradually. If something doesn’t seem right with the person, think back over the past few weeks or months to consider signs of change.
Don’t wait to bring up your concerns. It’s always better to intervene early, before their emotional distress becomes an emergency situation. If you have a feeling that something is wrong, you’re probably right.
Lend an Ear
If you suspect someone is experiencing a mental health crisis, reaching out is the first step to providing the help he or she needs to get better. Sit down to talk in a supportive, non-judgmental way. You might start the conversation with a casual invitation: “Let’s talk. You don’t seem like yourself lately. Is there something going on?”
Stay calm, and do more listening than talking. Show them that you can be trusted to lend an ear and give support without passing judgment. When discussing your concerns, stick to the facts and try not to blame or criticize.
Concerns about Suicide or Self-Harm or Threats to Harm Others
No emotional crisis is more urgent than suicidal thoughts and behavior, or threats to harm someone else. If you suspect someone is considering self-harm or suicide, don’t wait to intervene. It’s a difficult topic to bring up, but discussing suicide will not put the idea in someone’s head. In fact, it’s not abnormal for a person to have briefly thought about suicide. It becomes abnormal when someone starts to see suicide as the only solution to his or her problems.
If you discover or suspect that someone is dwelling on thoughts of self-harm, or developing a plan, it’s an emergency. If possible, take him or her to the emergency room for urgent attention. Medical staff in the ER can help you deal with the crisis and keep them safe.
If you think someone is suicidal or will harm someone else, do not leave him or her alone. If he or she will not seek help or call 117, eliminate access to firearms or other potential tools for harm to self or others, including unsupervised access to medications.
Swiss Parpas Suicide Prevention Lifeline at +41 (0) 27 321 21 21 for free 24-hour hotline La Main Tendue, or 143, 143.ch firstname.lastname@example.org
U.S National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is also a valuable resource. If you’re concerned about someone’s mental state or personal safety, and unable to take him or her to the emergency room, you can talk to a skilled counselor by calling 1-800-273-TALK.
U.S. Based Crisis Text Line – Text HOME to +1 741-741
If you’re concerned about anyone’s mental health, don’t put it off. You can make the difference in helping them get back on track to good mental health.
Seek Ongoing Professional Help
Reaching out can help a person with suicidal ideation begin to get a handle on a mental health crisis. But professional help is the best way to fully address a mental health problem and get that problem under control. You can explain that psychologists have specialized training that makes them experts in understanding and treating complex emotional and behavioral problems. That training is especially critical when an emotional disorder has reached crisis levels.
Psychologists use scientifically tested techniques that go beyond talking and listening. They can teach their clients tools and skills for dealing with problems, managing stress and working toward goals.
To help someone find a psychologist to speak with, you might encourage them to speak to his or her primary care provider about available mental health resources in your community.
Psychologist, Dr. Brandi Eijsermans, Optimal Wellness Global www.optimalwellnessglobal.com +41 0764950642 email@example.com
What resources are available?
There are numerous resources for those faced with cyberbullying, as well as those at risk of suicide. People need to talk about it, but most importantly, they need to talk about it to the right people who can help.
First contact your general practitioner or therapist. If they cannot be reached, you can call the Lucerne Psychiatry emergency number 058 856 53 00. The emergency number is used by the triage and emergency department team 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.
Do you have someone in your family who is mentally ill and are affected by the disease or are you, as a person affected, looking for advice yourself? Telephone advice from Lucerne Psychiatry: T 0900 85 65 65 (chargeable from the 10th minute; 3.23 CHF / min.).
Anonymous advice around the clock
Pro Mente Sana advice hotline
Free advice on legal or psychosocial questions for people with mental health problems, their relatives and other people who are close to them .
T 0848 800 858 (office hours)
Free and anonymous advice for children and young people
Talking can save
suicide information for people in crisis and for people who care.
American Association of Suicidality http://www.suicidology.org
Please be advised that this is a very delicate matter, therefore, the emphasis really has to be made on the importance of context. Each case is very individual and we strongly encourage you to seek professional support to help navigate your specific situation.
The emergency number is 117
Child and Adolescent Crisis Line Tel 147, www.147.ch
Parpas Suicide Prevention Lifeline at +41 (0) 27 321 21 21 for free 24-hour hotline support.
Poison Control Tox info Suisse Tel 145
Hospitalization – If you are in crisis or distress with an emergency situation in the Luzern area, please contact the “Psychiatric Emergency” departments (“Notfall”) on their 24-hour telephone lines. If you are not in Luzern, please contact services local to you or present yourself to the Accident and Emergency department of the nearest hospital. Child and adolescent phone number: +41 0900 554 774, Adult phone number +41 0900 11 14 14
ZUG 24h Psychiatric emergency outpatient – Specialists for adults and children and teenagers M-F 8-18h Rathausstrasse 1, 6340 Baar 041 723 66 00 (Adult) 041 723 66 30 (Child/Adolescent) www.zg,ch/apd
Clinical Meissenberg AG – Women’s Clinic Crisis Intervention 0900 008 008 Meisenbergstrasse 17, Zug 041 726 58 17 www.meissenberg.ch
Low Cost Interventions and non-acute crisis support
Triangel Beratung – Bundesstrasse 15, 6300 Zug, 041728 80 80 https://www.triangel-zug.ch/
Family Aid Zug – Aegeristrasse 52, 041 710 08 42 www.familienhilfe-zug.ch
Parent Emergency – parents in crisis and overwork situations (not medical questions or emergencies. Tel. 143. 0848 35 45 55, www.elternnotruf.ch