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Bullying in childhood can lead to psychotic experiences, new study shows

The Royal College of Surgeons in Ireland has published a report linking childhood trauma to psychotic symptoms like ‘hearing voices’.

Image: Young boy is sitting on a swing set via Shutterstock

NEW RESEARCH HAS been published demonstrating a link between exposure to traumatic events in childhood, including physical assault and bullying, and psychotic experiences.

Over a thousand school-aged teenagers were assessed as part of the study, which was carried out jointly by the Cork-based National Suicide Research Foundation and the Royal College of Surgeons (RCSI).

Researchers interviewed them after three months, and then after a year for evidence of trauma and experiences which could be classified as “psychotic” including “hearing voices”. The study found that ‘classmates’ were the largest group inflicting physical harm, and that most bullying was taking place within the school.

Professor Mary Cannon of the RCSI’s Department of Psychiatry said the study was the first to find direct evidence of the link, adding:

Furthermore, it showed that the cessation of traumatic experiences was associated with a significant reduction in the incidence of psychotic experiences.

Professor Cannon said the findings place “new weight” on calls for more comprehensive intervention strategies for those suffering “abuse at home and bullying in schools”

The RCSI’s Dr Ian Kelleher said that the finding that most bullying was taking place within the school environment showed “teacher training could have a very important role to play in reducing this harm”.

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