The psychosocial impacts of cybervictimisation and barriers to seeking social support: Young people’s perspectives
Dennehy, R., Meaney, S., Cronin, M., & Arensman, E.
The negative impact of cyberbullying on the mental health of victims is well established. However, qualitative research related to the mental health impacts of cybervictimisation and how these are experienced by young people is scarce. In particular, little is known about young people’s perceptions of the association between cyberbullying and suicidal behaviours. This paper reports findings on the mental health impacts of cyberbullying, and barriers to seeking social support, from eleven focus groups with 64 young people aged fourteen to seventeen (53% female), across four secondary schools. Thematic analysis identified two central themes: The Psychological Nature of Cyberbullying (sub-themes include Trapped by the Omni-Presence of Cyber Technology; Negative Overthinking; The Impacts of Negative Overthinking on Young People’s Lives; and Suicide as a Means of Escape) and Barriers to Help-Seeking (including sub-themes Needing Help Regarded as Sign of Weakness; Young People Unable to Identify and Express Feelings; Lack of Confidence in Parents Ability to Provide Support; and Inappropriate School Intervention). Cyberbullying was described as more psychological in nature and impact than traditional bullying with increased deleterious effect on the mental health and wellbeing of victims. Victims experience rumination and worry fuelled by the omni-present, pervasive, and permanent nature of cyber interactions. Young people’s inability to seek support maintains and exacerbates victims’ distress. Participants perceived suicide as a viable escape route for young victims defeated and entrapped by cybervictimisation and their own negative thoughts. Interventions should address emotional competence and mental health literacy in young people, as well as empowering support networks including parents, peers, and school personnel, to foster an environment that promotes help-seeking.