Teachers call for anti bullying plan after boy's suicide


THE president of the Association of Secondary Teachers in Ireland has called for a national anti bullying programme after reports that a 14 year old boy killed himself because of bullying.

But the president of the newly formed Irish Association of Suicidology, Senator Dan Neville, warned against linking the reported suicide directly to bullying and described the problem as more complex than that.

The teenager, who had been attending a secondary school in Killorglin, Co Kerry, in preparation for his Junior Certificate, is believed to have committed suicide two weeks ago, following bullying and taunts about his German Irish parentage.

A Garda spokesman said no comment would be made on the subject.

A National programme was needed to address the problem. ASTI president. Mr John Mulcahy, said. "A lot of people were asking: `What if it happened here'?" he said. "Now it appears that we have an answer.

The reported suicide occurred shortly before a major conference on bullying was held in Dublin earlier this month.

At that conference, Dr Mona O'Moore of the Anti Bullying Centre in Trinity College, Dublin, said more than 25 per cent of post primary students and 30 per cent of primary school pupils surveyed admitted to being bullied.

"There is no doubt that bullying is a terrible thing," said Mr Mulcahy. "It's quite widespread and it inflicts appalling damage on young people who are often afraid to report it.

He said there had been several suicides previously both within schools and linked to schools. "Who is to say that this is the first case of suicide because of bullying?"

According to Government figures, suicide rates among those under 25 increased by 400 per cent between 1974, when there were 17 suicides among those under 25, and 1994, when there were 88 suicides in that age group. Suicide researchers conclude that most young people who commit suicide have suffered recognised or unrecognised psychological illness, indicating that a problem like bullying may be only one part of a larger set of causes.

Mr Neville also called for a national suicide prevention programme based on the findings of the ministerial task force on suicide, to be published soon, but warned against attributing the reported suicide solely to bullying.

"I think it would be quite wrong to say that someone in Killorglin was bullied and committed suicide because of the bullying," said Mr Neville. "It's far more complex than that." He also said there was a danger in adopting a judgmental attitude in the case, since the allegation that bullying might have caused the suicide had very, very serious implications" for the boy's parents. his fellow pupils and the school.