Friday, September 11, 2009

The Trevor Project - National Suicide Prevention Week "Sept. 6-12" points to a preventable epidemic - By Charles Robbins

When two 11-year-old boys died by suicide in April of this year after enduring relentless anti-gay bullying at their separate schools, shocked citizens across the country were forced to come to terms with an uncomfortable but blatant epidemic. The hallways of schools, homes, churches and other places where all young people should be able to safely learn and grow are plagued with its tragic prevalence. Youth who identify as or are perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) struggle with depression and thoughts of suicide at a disproportionately high rate as a result of the increased risk factors sexual minorities face. Photo Chad Rogers

A new study released in August by the UCLA School of Public Health found that lesbian, gay and bisexual people are twice as likely as heterosexual men and women to seek help from mental health professionals. This recently-revealed conclusion perfectly illustrates the already often-noted statistic determined by a Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey published in 2007: LGBTQ youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers – a fact we’re all too familiar with at The Trevor Project. Perhaps more off-putting than this distressing statistic is that only 14 states even bother to collect sexual orientation data in their Youth Risk Behavior Surveys. The remaining 72% of states ignore the opportunity to obtain vital information about a subculture of young people who are already all too often left without the support networks and resources they desperately need. As disheartening stories such as Carl Walker-Hoover’s and Jaheem Herrera’s (the two 11-year-old boys) surface more frequently, the harsh realities force us to address the preventable nature of these tragedies.

This week, we recognize National Suicide Prevention Week, and are reminded that when young people have a safe place or person to turn to in times of crisis, suicide is preventable. In fact, a 2006 survey released in “Psychology in the Schools” found that sexual minority adolescents who believed they had one school staff member with whom they could discuss problems were only one-third as likely to report making multiple suicide attempts than those without that support. Lower victimization rates and suicidality among sexual minority youth have also been linked with supportive resources such as the availability of non-academic counseling, anti-bullying policies and peer support groups. Therefore, we know that when we foster safe and accepting environments to begin with, and effectively intervene when warning signs arise, we can absolutely empower young people to live. Read complete article - The Trevor Project - PDF

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