More Support = Less Suicides

New study says LGB teens are less likely to attempt suicide in areas that are considered gay-friendly

Lesbian, gay and bisexual teens are five times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. But according to a new study in the journal Pediatrics, this number is dramatically reduced in regions that are considered to be more “gay-friendly.”

“The Social Environment and Suicide Attempts in Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Youth” set out to determine how the social environment impacts the risk factor for LGB teens when it comes to suicide. After interviewing thousands of high school students, and consulting three years worth of health surveys, the Columbia University study concluded that the risk of attempting suicide is 20 percent greater in unsupportive, less progressive environments.

“A more supportive social environment was significantly associated with fewer suicide attempts,” concludes the report.

The teens surveyed answered pertinent questions about alcohol and drug use, relationships, sex and depression, as well as their peers and family. They also discussed their personal experiences with bullying and suicide.

The study’s author and public health researcher Mark Hatzenbuehler told Reuters that the findings are “a call to action in providing a roadmap for how we can begin to reduce suicide in LGB youth.”

He also said that changes in the way schools and families approach sexuality could make a real difference for young people who may be considering ending their lives. “If schools want to take seriously reducing suicide attempts among LGB youth,” says Hatzenbuehler, “several things they can do are allow gay-straight alliances, implementing anti-discrimination policies and implementing anti-bullying policies.”

Recently, several school districts around the country have come under fire for trying to ban GSAs in public schools. If the findings in this report are any indication of the importance of having conversations about sexual orientation, then the decisions to ban such talk in schools may do more harm than we thought.