The Current

Teen suicides in Woodstock, Ont., spur discussion on effectiveness of bullying programs

Experts say school anti-bullying programs can actually do more harm than good.
Hundreds of students attended the Woodstock mental health demonstration June 7, 2016. (John Rieti/CBC)
Listen19:41

Read story transcript


On June 6, 2016, hundreds of students walked out of class in Woodstock, Ont., to demand more help for a crisis that has the whole country watching.  Between March and June 2016, five young people in the small city have taken their own lives, and officials say there have been many more suicide attempts. 

Many of the students said there needs to be better services to help young people dealing with mental health issues. (John Rieti/CBC)

Mental health experts say the causes of suicide are often complex and can't be isolated to just one factor, but many agree that bullying can play a role, and that existing anti-bullying programs aren't working. 

 'There was a study that came out a few years ago that looked at the prevalence of bullying across 12 years, and every country was reducing their numbers except for Canada and The United Kingdom.' -Dr. Tracy Vaillancourt, University of Ottawa

The Current discusses the relationship between bullying and suicide, and the effectiveness of existing strategies to mediate bullying among our youth. 

'The issue is there's an extremely small effect from a pretty major investment in time and resources.' -Dr. John LeBlanc, on anti-bullying programs
Angela Haggarty, an outreach worker, makes a chalk painting in downtown Woodstock. (John Rieti/CBC)

  • Dr. Tracy Vaillancourt, Canada Research chair in children's mental health and violence prevention at the University of Ottawa
  • Dr. John LeBlanc, pediatrician with the Izaak Walton Killam Hospital in Halifax and associate professor in the Department of Pediatrics at Dalhousie University in Halifax

Have you or your child sought help after being bullied? Did you receive adequate care? 

Tweet us @TheCurrentCBC. ​Post on our Facebook page. Or email us.


This segment was produced by The Current's Willow Smith, Ines Colabrese, and Marc Apollonio.