HRC Blog

Social Environment Linked to Teen Suicide Risk

A study published yesterday in the journal, Pediatrics, showed that lesbian, gay, and bisexual teens who do not have access to support such as Gay/Straight Alliances, and whose schools lack anti-discrimination and anti-bullying policies are more likely to attempt suicide than their LGB counterparts in more accepting communities and schools.  The study, which focused on LGB youth in rural and conservative parts of Oregon, found that they are five times more likely to attempt suicide than straight teens.

According to the study, overall, 21.5 percent of gay, lesbian or bisexual teens reported attempting suicide while just 4.2 percent of straight kids reported the same.  In more conservative communities, researchers found a higher percentage of suicide attempts: 25 percent of gay teens and 9 percent of straight teens.

The study's author, Mark Hatzenbuehler, a Columbia University psychologist and researcher, told the Associated Press the results show that "environments that are good for gay youth are also healthy for heterosexual youth."

It is our hope that school districts everywhere heed that “call to action,” by implementing the appropriate policies and creating a welcoming environment for all students, regardless of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

The HRC Foundation’s Welcoming Schools program focuses on elementary schools and teaching students the importance of respecting diversity and avoiding bias-based behaviors. Welcoming schools also provides schools with tools to insure that all students and families are treated with respect.   Fostering a climate of respect for all students and families at an early age increases academic achievement and helps prevent bullying during middle and high school. Learn more at www.welcomingschools.org.

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