Drugs and Alcohol a Coping Mechanism for Bullied Teens
4 March 2019 at 5:02 pm
Bullied teenagers and young adults are turning to drugs and alcohol to help them cope, new research has found, renewing calls for bullying to be recognised as a national health problem.
The survey, conducted by ReachOut, revealed 16 per cent of people aged between 14 and 25 used drugs and alcohol to deal with bullying, and 17 per cent said they were prescribed medication by GPs.
Out of the 1,000 people surveyed, one in four (24 per cent) said they had been bullied, with 36 per cent saying they were bullied online. A total of 65 per cent said that bullying had a moderate to major impact on their mental health and wellbeing.
The research also found that 48 percent of respondents said they coped by spending time with family friends, and 36 percent said spent time doing things they enjoyed.
Ashley de Silva, ReachOut CEO, told Pro Bono News the number of young people drinking and taking drugs to self-medicate was really concerning, as it could be a fast track to more serious issues.
“That could be binge drinking, drink driving, unprotected sex and may even lead to overdosing or death,” de Silva said.
He said 2018 data that showed 380,000 people aged 14 to 25 had experienced cyber bullying in the 12 months prior, coupled with the new data on coping mechanisms, had prompted calls for the issue to be viewed as a public health issue, and not just a behavioural one.
“Our view is it’s kind of gone beyond just online safety strategies, and by acknowledging it as something broader we’re hoping that it will be looked at in its full complexity,” he said.
“We need to continue to do work on the early intervention and prevention strategies and programs, but also have a really good look at the digital world that young people are living in today and acknowledge that social media platforms are part of it.
“It is clear that the nature of bullying has changed forever. For most young people being bullied in the classroom continues when they get home and jump onto social media or even their favourite video game.”
He said while many organisations dealing with distressed young people and their parents were aware of the impacts of cyber bullying, it was important all areas of the sector were united in their views on how to solve the problem.
“It’s about making sure we’re aligned in our views around what it will really take to shift the dial, and looking at the full ecosystem of how this is occurring and playing out for young people,” he said.