Bullied children more likely to hallucinate or hear voices

303-BULLYING-CW07.tifBullied children are nearly five times more likely to suffer a psychotic episode by the time they are 18, researchers have warned as they call for abuse to be stamped out in primary school.

Pupils who were tormented during their schooldays were far more likely to experience hallucinations, paranoia or have heard voices which can lead to more serious mental health problems in later life, a study found.

Researchers at the Universities of Warwick and Bristol said teachers must stop bullying in primary school because it is already too late by secondary school.

“We want to eradicate the myth that bullying at a young age could be viewed as a harmless rite of passage that everyone goes through,” said Professor Dieter Wolke of the University of Warwick.

“It casts a long shadow over a person’s life and can have serious consequences for mental health.”

Researchers found that children who were bullied over a number of years were up to four and a half times more likely to have suffered from psychotic experiences by the age of 18.

Pupils who only experienced bullying for brief periods were also at increased risk for psychotic experiences.

The study is the first to report the long term impact of being involved in bullying during childhood on mental problems in late adolescence or adulthood.

“These numbers show exactly how much childhood bullying can impact on psychosis in adult life,” added Professor Dieter Wolke.

“Interventions against bullying should start early, in primary school, to prevent long term serious effects on children’s mental health.

“This clearly isn’t something that can wait until secondary school to be resolved; the damage may already have been done.”

The study was published in Psychological Medicine.