By Ava-joye Burnett

BALTIMORE (WJZ)– Cyberbullying is an issue we all know about, but now, a new study is raising concern it could be linked to depression.

Some are calling the sharp rise in depression among teens a public health emergency and girls may be more at risk.

With the stroke of a key lives could change forever. A reality Grace McComas’ family knows all too well.

The Howard County teen killed herself in 2012 after a year of constant cyberbullying.

“I saw what it did to her. And we tried to help her in every way we knew how and we were unable,” said Christine McComas, Grace’s mother.

Now four years later, new research finds there’s an increase in depression among adolescents. It’s especially bad for girls and some experts think cyberbullying could be a culprit.

“Girls can be very unkind to each other. Sending text messages, doing Instagram sending pictures out, spreading rumors, that affects females tremendously,” said pediatric hematology oncologist Dr. Aziza Shad of Sinai Hospital, who thinks this is a public health issue.”Absolutely and I think it should be on the forefront of every pediatrician and health care provider.”

Advocates say the best defense for parents is to learn the ropes of the internet.

The Baltimore Child Abuse Center gives parents a crash course 101 on social media.

“I think a lot of parents sometimes can be shocked. And taking charge through understanding what’s out there and when they don’t know, researching it,” said Drew Fidler who works at the center.

Grace McComas’ family took a tragedy and made it their life’s mission to stop online bullying.

“Now it follows them everywhere. It’s as close as their phone or their computer or their iPad, their game system, you name it and it’s damaging because it never goes away,” said Christine McComas.

Grace’s mother helped to push through a law that now makes it illegal to bully kids online.

The study from the American academy of pediatrics also found the treatment has not kept up with the significant increase in depression diagnoses.

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Ava-joye Burnett

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