Lesbian, gay and bisexual teens are five times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.
The findings showed that lesbian, gay and bisexual
(LGB) teens living in counties with a high proportion of gay and lesbian couples, and those who went to schools with gay-straight alliances and anti-discrimination policies, were less likely to attempt suicide than LGB teens living in less accepting environments.
Hatzenbuehler used data from 3 years of health surveys given to teens in Oregon. The data covered more than 30,000 high school students across the state, all surveyed during 11th grade.
Teens answered questions about depression, alcohol use
, and relationships with their peers and family, as well as their sexuality.
About 1400 of teens surveyed identified themselves as being gay, lesbian, or bisexual.
Of those students, almost 22 kids out of every hundred said they had attempted suicide in the past year. That compared to about 4 of every hundred teens who identified as straight and said they had attempted suicide.
Suicide attempts were more common in LGB teens who reported being depressed and binge drinking, as well as those who had been victimized by their peers or physically abused by an adult.
The findings show that by making a few concrete changes to their policies, schools can improve the community for their LGB students and perhaps cut down on attempted suicides as well, Hatzenbuehler said.Is it really "suicide"?
Dr. Ritch Savin-Williams, a psychologist from Cornell University, questioned the notion that LGB youth are more likely to attempt suicide at all, and said the issue is more controversial than this study suggests.
He said that while LGB youth report suicide attempts
more often than straight youth, their idea of a suicide attempt may be skewed. "We have given them the message that they are suicidal," said Savin-Williams, who wasn't involved in the study.
"Every kid has to be protected, every kid has to be safe, and it's the school's responsibility to do that," Savin-Williams said. But rather than highlight suicide risks, he said, "my approach would be: look what kind of abilities you're squashing by not having protection of gay kids. I think that's a real loss."What are your thoughts on LGB teens being more suicidal?