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Trusted Adults as a Protective Factor for Mental Health: Bullying and Role of an Adult in Representative Sample of High School Youth

Objective: Bullying victimization commonly occurs among young adults and negatively influences their psychosocial functioning. This study examines school bullying and online bullying and their relationships with suicide attempts. The protective roles of the availability of supportive adults of the relationship between bullying and suicide attempt are tested separately.

Method: A sample of 5,351 students ages 14-18 (Mean age = 15.68) in Colorado was used. Multiple regression analyses were utilized to identify the association between bullying and suicide attempts and the moderation effects of the availability of support from parents and teachers.

Results: Results revealed that school bullying and online bullying were associated with youths’ suicide attempts. Asian and African American youth reported fewer suicide attempts compared to White counterparts. Compared to their cisgender heterosexual peers, cisgender LGB youth and transgender LGB youth were more likely to attempt suicide. Between teachers and parents as first line of support, only parental support moderated the relationship between bullying and suicide attempts.

Conclusions: The results contribute to research exploring the role of parental support in the relationship between experiences of being bullied and suicidality. Findings inform future research and practice in implementing evidence-based intervention programs for at-risk youth and their families.

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