Monday, August 31, 2009

Studies show LGBT youth attempt suicide at a disproportionately high rate; suicide among LGBT elderly may also be a problem

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention recently received a $45,000 grant from the Johnson Family Foundation to develop a project to reduce suicide and suicidal behavior in the LGBT community.

Studies over the last two decades indicate a disproportionately high rate of suicide among LGBT adolescents and young adults.

“There is increasing evidence that LGBT individuals, especially youth, have higher rates of suicide attempts as compared to heterosexuals of the same ages,” said Andrew Lane, executive director of JFF, a New York-based group that operates grantmaking programs for environmental and LGBT issues. “Significant efforts must be undertaken to reduce suicide behavior and risk among LGBT people.”

But Ann Haas, Ph.D., director of suicide prevention projects for New York-based AFSP, said, “There really are no official statistics. That’s a big factor that hampers understanding and promotes not doing anything about it.”

She said much of the information available about suicide in the LGBT community is anecdotal. Other data comes from self-reported suicide attempts. Photo

While government-funded studies have required collecting gender and racial and ethnic data, they have not required gathering information about sexual orientation or gender identity, often for political reasons.

Haas notes a number of factors contribute to the high rate of suicide and suicide attempts in the LGBT community. Rejection by families and the difficulty parents have in coming to terms with their children’s sexuality are major factors.

Bullying by peers, harassment and intimidation compound familial rejection and produce higher rates of depression and anxiety than in the general population. As a means of coping, LGBT youth use drugs and alcohol at higher rates than other youth. Both drugs and alcohol are factors in suicide themselves.

Haas said that suicide rates have decreased where prevention programs are in place.

“Even among ethnic and religious families, they can be taught they don’t have to change their values, but can learn behavior that doesn’t put their child at risk,” she said.

Research by Caitlin Ryan that was published in the journal Pediatrics found that not only parental acceptance, but simple neutrality, toward a child’s sexual orientation has a big impact on reducing the rate of suicide attempts. That study also confirms the high rate of suicide attempts by gay and lesbian adolescents and young adults. Read complete article - E-mail

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) Dec. 29, 2008 — Young gay people whose parents or guardians responded negatively when they revealed their sexual orientation were more likely to attempt suicide, experience severe depression and use drugs than those whose families accepted the news, according to a new study.

The way in which parents or guardians respond to a youth’s sexual orientation profoundly influences the child’s mental health as an adult, say researchers at San Francisco State University, whose findings appear in Monday’s journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.

“Parents love their children and want the best for them,” said lead researcher Caitlin Ryan, a social worker who directs the university’s Family Acceptance Project. “Now that we have measured all these behaviors, we can see that some of them put youth at extremely high risk and others are wellness-promoting.”

Among other findings, the study showed that teens who experienced negative feedback were more than eight times as likely to have attempted suicide, nearly six times as vulnerable to severe depression and more than three times at risk of drug use.

More significantly, Ryan said, ongoing work at San Francisco State suggests that parents who take even baby steps to respond with equanimity instead of rejection can dramatically improve a gay youth’s mental health outlook.

One of the most startling findings was that being forbidden to associate with gay peers was as damaging as being physically beaten or verbally abused by their parents in terms of negative feedback, Ryan said.
Read complete article
AFACE: All Families Are Created Equal -

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