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SUICIDE

School rapped over bullying victim’s suicide

A 15-year-old girl from southern Sweden took her own life after several years of bullying during which her school's idea of combatting the problem had been to make her go tell the other students that their taunts upset her.

School rapped over bullying victim's suicide

The girl had been experiencing problems in school since the age of thirteen and frequently had abuse hurled at her by a gang of boys.

According to the family, the girl, who had a reputation as a “good student” was transferred together with a friend into a class with an unruly boy gang.

The girl was seated next to the boys, who started to call her names, write taunts about her on the board and send her dirty pictures over the internet.

The problems then escalated when she was 14, when profanities were graffittied onto the girl’s locker, cans were thrown at her and she had to listen to abuse every day. The parents felt that the teachers had lost control of the social climate of the whole form.

The boys often called the 15-year-old an ”emo”, a word which refers to a music style called emotive hardcore but has recently also become common slang among the young for someone who wants attention.

When the girl had been pushed into the wall by the boys, injuring her shoulder, her mother called the school and asked what they were going to do about it. She was told she was the third to complain that week.

The school had launched a mentor programme to try to come to terms with the problems among the students.

The girl was told by her mentor that the best way to deal with the situation was to go round the different class rooms, explaining that she was not an “emo” and that she didn’t feel good about being called that.

The girl, initially unwilling as she felt it was humiliating, did what the mentor told her. When her mother called her mentor to complain she was told that the girl had “done well”.

However, the 15-year-old’s problems continued and the family was forced to seek help from the child and youth psychiatry (Barn- och ungdomspsykiatrin, BUP). When she turned 15 the problems got worse and the girl was home-schooled for a while.

Meanwhile, according to the family, the boys continued to harass her on Facebook.

After some time, the girl started a new school where she seemed to be doing well, but eventually when other pressures set in, she could no longer manage and subsequently took her life.

The parents were unwilling to inform the students at the 15-year-old’s former school, which her little sister was still attending, about the tragic death. But despite their wishes, teachers went round to the different classes telling the children what had happened.

The family reported the school to the Schools Inspectorate (Skolinspektionen) for not following their wishes as well as for not doing enough to help the girl while she was a student there.

However, the Schools Inspectorate decided not to take the matter further as they concluded that the school had tried to combat the problem but that they had never perceived it to be aimed specifically at the 15-year-old.

The Schools Inspectorate also concluded that the fact that the girl was asked to explain to the students that she wasn’t an emo, explained by the school as a measure to combat the ignorance among students what the emo culture stands for, was highly inappropriate.

However, the agency will not intervene in this case, as the school has taken measures against similar occurrences in the future.

They also said that although it is always important to listen to parents and follow their wishes, they could see why in this case, the school chose to speak to its students about the girl’s death.

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SUICIDE

Suicides increasing amongst Swedish youth

Over 1,500 people took their own lives in Sweden in 2017, 149 of whom were between the ages of 15 and 24.

Suicides increasing amongst Swedish youth
File photo: Isabell Höjman/TT
Each year, researchers at the National Centre for Suicide Research and Prevention of Mental Ill-Health (NASP) at Karolinska Institutet (KI) take a close look at the suicide statistics from Sweden's National Board of Health and Welfare. This year, they found a worrying trend. Suicide amongst 15 to 24-year-olds has increased since the 1990s. 
 
Although the figures don’t show a massive change, there is nonetheless cause for concern. 
 
“If there is an increasing trend, it is an important signal that things are developing in the wrong direction,” KI researcher Gergö Hadlaczky said.
 
“We now have enough data to analyze trends and we’ve found a small but significant increase among young people's suicides from around 1994 to 2017. The increase is just under one percent per year,” Hadlaczky continued. 
 
Although one percent per year may not sound like a big jump, he called the increase “serious”. 
 
Going the wrong way
 
The number of suicides in Sweden fell sharply in the late 1980s and 1990s but after 2000, the decrease levelled off within the general population and stop declining altogether amongst younger people. For several years in the 2000s, the youth suicide rate held constant but the trend now appears to be heading in the wrong direction. 
 
“It is very difficult to determine a trend but we have done three different analyses and we feel convinced,” Hadlaczky said. 
 
The researcher said that it hadn’t been possible to determine a definitive trend until the volume of data reached a sufficient point this year.
 
Researchers said they could not yet pinpoint the reasons behind the increasing youth suicide numbers, as there has not yet been a study conducted to look at the possible explanations for the increase. 
 
“We have no current plans for a larger study but now I think there is ample reason to apply for funds to investigate why we are seeing this increase,” Hadlaczky said. 
 
In 2017, 1,544 people took their own lives in Sweden. Of those, 1,063 were men while 541 were women. There were 149 suicides amongst the 15 to 24 age group and eight children under the age of 14 took their own lives. 
 
Suicide is the leading cause of death among men aged 15 to 44 in Sweden. 
 
The charity group Suicide Zero has tried to push the Swedish government into committing more resources to suicide prevention. In an opinion piece published in Dagens Nyheter last year, the group pointed out that the roughly 1,500 people who take their own lives in Sweden each year is around six times higher than the number of people who die in traffic accidents but suicide prevention research only receives around three million kronor ($368,700) in state finances each year, while traffic safety research receives between 100 and 150 million kronor ($12.2-18.4 million) from the state.
 
“If suicide prevention work is to be effective, it is necessary to have a plan and allocate resources in all municipalities as well as county councils nationally,” Suicide Zero's general secretary Alfred Skogberg and coordinator Lotta Ekdahl wrote.