"This issue is not about a 'different' way of life; it is about life itself. I know that every teacher and every parent in this Commonwealth fundamentally agrees that no young person -- gay or straight -- should be driven to take her or his life because of isolation and abuse. This is a tragedy we must all work together to prevent. We can take the first step toward ending gay youth suicide by creating an atmosphere of dignity and respect for these young people in our schools. Governor William F. Weld, speaking at a Gay and Lesbian Youth Commission Teacher Training, Arlington Street Church, June 30, 1993.
Suicide among adolescents is a national and statewide tragedy. The Massachusetts Department of Education asked more than 3,000 students in 1994 to answer questions anonymously and found that 10 percent had attempted suicide compared with 6 percent in 1990, 20 percent "made plans" to commit suicide compared with 14 percent in 1990. 3.4 percent required medical treatment as a result of a suicide attempt. (1)
Adolescent suicide has increased threefold in the last 10 years, making it the second most frequent cause of death among youths aged 15-24 (10 per 100,000 deaths per year). (2) The incidence of suicide among adolescents between the ages of 15 and 19 had jumped from 2.7 per 100,000 in 1950 to 9.3 in 1982. The incidence of youth suicide stands at 11.3 per 100,000 today. It is estimated that suicide attempts are 40 to 100 times more common than completed suicides. (3) An additional 500,000 youths of all sexual orientations attempt suicide annually. (4)
Suicides among Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, & Transgender Youth
In 1989, the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) issued its "Report on the Secretary's Task Force on Youth Suicide," which found that "A majority of suicide attempts by homosexuals occur during their youth, and gay youth are 2 to 3 times more likely to attempt suicide than other young people. They may comprise up to 30 percent of (the estimated 5,000) completed youth suicides annually. (5) The report recommended that "mental health and youth service agencies can provide acceptance and support for young homosexuals, train their personnel on gay issues, and provide appropriate gay adult role models; schools can protect gay youth from abuse from their peers and provide accurate information about homosexuality in health curricula; families should accept their child and work toward educating themselves about the development and nature of homosexuality"
According to Kevin Berrill, Director of the Anti-Violence Project of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force at the time of the report,s release stated, "The increased risk of suicide facing these youth is linked to growing up in a society that teaches them to hide and to hate themselves. We welcome this report and hope it will lead to action that will save lives."
Initially, however, the report was suppressed by the Bush administration under pressure from right-wing groups and by conservatives in Congress. After the findings, William Dannemeyer, who was at the time a conservative Republican member of the U.S. House of Representatives from California, called for then-president Bush to "dismiss from public service all persons still employed who concocted this homosexual pledge of allegiance and sealed the lid on these misjudgments for good." HHS Secretary Louis Sullivan wrote in a letter to Dannemeyer that the study "undermined the institution of the family." (6)
The findings of the report were leaked to the press and finally released. Other studies confirm these findings. Gary Remafedi, Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Minnesota, and author of Death by Denial: Studies of Attempted and Completed Suicide in Gay and Lesbian and Bisexual Youth, found in a 1991 study of 150 gay and lesbian youths in Minneapolis, more than 30% said they had attempted suicide at least once as a teenager.
The youths who are at the greatest risk for suicide are the ones who are least likely to reveal their sexual orientation to anyone. Suicide may be a way of making sure that no one ever knows. It's homophobia that's killing these kids. (7) Read complete article & learn more - www.outproud.org - Home