Suicide & Bullying

Suicide, Bullying and the Perils of Willful Ignorance – The Research is There, but Why Isn’t It Put to Use?

Events in 2010 shocked parents, teachers, doctors and students and caught the nation off-guard — but they shouldn’t have. At least six suicides by lesbian, gay or bisexual youth, including Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, were all connected to ongoing bullying by peers because they of their sexual orientation. If policies in place at schools and other environments for teens had been based on the available data on the needs of LBGT youth and communities, these tragedies might have been preventable.

Researchers at the Center have studied the health and mental health of lesbian, gay and bisexual populations for over a decade. They have looked carefully at issues they face in studies that consider everything from the effects of disease to stigma. With other researchers in the field, they have contributed to a robust body of work that can inform policies, programs, parents and schools to help ensure a better environment for LGB youth to grow and succeed.

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reacted to the tragedies in 2010 by collaborating with five other departments – Education, Agriculture, Defense, Interior and Justice – to establish a federal task force on bullying, and a created an action plan that includes adding a strong focus on LGBT youth in all federally funded anti-bullying initiatives.

Center researchers were part of a three-year effort by an expert research panel that created an extensive set of policy recommendations based on scientific evidence that focuses on helping LGBT Americans, like all Americans, live healthier lives and thrive in their communities.

The same parents, teachers, doctors and policymakers that were shocked by recent events have a wealth of resources to become educated on the needs of LGBT populations, and to guide them in creating policies and programs to prevent similar events from happening again under their watch.

Policy Recommendations

In the recent report Suicide And Suicide Risk In Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual And Transgender Populations: Review And Recommendations – a team of experts including BRITE Center researchers Dr. Vickie Mays and Dr. Susan Cochran took a comprehensive look at suicide and suicide risk. The report’s recommendations include:

  • Create anti-bullying and safe schools legislation and inclusion sexual orientation and gender identity in all protective legislation related to school safety
  • Change all federal and state laws and regulations that create inequities based on sexual orientation or gender identity and that have been shown through research to have negative mental health outcomes or otherwise heighten suicide risk for LGB people
  • Improve access to mental health services through nondiscrimination policies and expansion of health insurance coverage to same-sex partners
  • Create legislation to implement requiring that measures of sexual orientation and gender identity are incorporated into federally-supported benchmark surveys and other population-based databases related to health and mental health, so that the consequences of inequities affecting LGB people can be more fully identified
Related Links

• Age of Minority Sexual Orientation Development and Risk of Childhood Maltreatment and Suicide Attempts in Women (American Journal of Orthopsychiatry)
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