Sadly, another teen, this one on Staten Island, has taken her own life, and both humiliation by peers and loss of relationship have contributed to her tragic decision. Amanda left a note—as if the comments on her facebook page weren’t enough.
Relatives, but not her school, knew of the bullying as well as her suffering.
What if doctors had known too?
Could neuropsychology come to play a role in helping the victims (even as we continue to address the problem itself?)
C. Nathan DeWall claims that research has found “common neural overlap between social and physical pain mechanisms.” In other words, the pain centers that light up in our brain when we experience social shame, rejection, and exclusion are the same pain centers that light up when we are physically injured. (This is probably evolutionary—rejection by a mother, and/or exclusion by the primary social group or tribe, would threaten survival as much as physical injury).
Which leads to the question, can medication designed to reduce pain-sensitivity—such as over the counter acetaminophen—help reduce the pain, thus preventing the suffer from reaching a threshold that is intolerable, and taking extreme action? Preliminary Research apparently indicates it can. Perhaps this fact needs to be added to our growing arsenal of tools attempting to address this social issue, and prevent tragedies like the one Amanda Cummings’ family is suffering.