Someone to talk to: the association of mentorship and cyberbullying with suicidality among US high school students
Liliana Aguayo, Lauren B. Beach, Xinzi Wang, Megan M. Ruprecht, Dylan Felt, Kiarri N. Kershaw, Matthew M. Davis & Gregory Phillips II
Objective: Suicide is the second-leading cause of death in youth. We tested whether having a mentoring relationship associated with lower risks for suicidality, particularly among youth at higher risk due to cyberbullying.
Methods: This study pooled the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) data from five jurisdictions that asked students if there was at least one teacher or other adult in their school that they could talk with, if they have a problem (mentorship). Students self-reported cyberbullying exposure and suicidality in the past 12 months. Odds of suicidal ideation, planning, and attempts were estimated using multivariable weighted logistic regression in overall and sex-stratified stepwise models. Interactions between mentorship and cyberbullying were also tested.
Results: Of the 25,527 student respondents, 87% reported having a mentoring relationship. Mentoring relationships were associated with lower odds of suicidal ideation (aOR, 0.44; 95% CI 0.33–0.57), planning (aOR, 0.59; 95% CI 0.41–0.85), and suicide attempts (aOR, 0.42; 95% CI 0.31–0.56). Stratified analyses showed a significant interaction between cyberbullying and mentorship with suicidal attempts among males, and a near-significant association between cyberbullying and mentorship with suicidal thoughts among females. Compared to male students with no cyberbullying and no mentorship, odds of attempting suicide were lower for males with no cyberbullying and mentorship (aOR, 0.55, 95% CI 0.32–0.92), higher for males with cyberbullying and no mentorship (aOR, 7.78, 95% CI 3.47–17.47), but not significantly different for males with cyberbullying and mentoring relationships (aOR, 1.49, 95% CI 0.86–2.48). Similarly, compared with females with no cyberbullying and no mentorship, odds of having suicidal thoughts were lower for females with no cyberbullying and mentorship (aOR, 0.40, 95% CI 0.28–0.57), and higher for females with cyberbullying and no mentorship (aOR, 2.54, 95% CI 1.59–4.07).
Conclusion: School-based mentoring may mitigate risk of suicidality among adolescents and limit the toxic effects of cyberbullying.