Lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) youth are often the targets of bullying. Existing data on bullying suggests that these individuals are more likely to be the victims of aggression and violence, as well as verbal and physical bullying, than their peers who do not identify as sexual minorities. The consequences of such experiences are all negative, and can even be fatal.
Many young people who report being bullied develop significant symptoms of depression, and may think about or attempt suicide. The best way to help these children is to understand what risk factors pose the biggest threats and to address them. Therefore, Michael T. LeVasseur, MPH, of the City University of New York’s School of Public Health at Hunter College in New York, recently conducted an analysis of existing data on youth suicides among LGB young people.
LeVasseur looked at LGB status, ethnicity, and gender to determine how each factor affected suicidal ideation and attempts in New York City youth. He found that LGB youths were over four times more likely to attempt suicide than non-LGB youths. Further, these same young people were twice as likely to be victims of bullying when compared to non-LGB young people.
When LeVasseur looked at ethnicity and gender, he found that females and Hispanic youth had lower incidents of bullying, but higher rates of suicide attempts. However, the association between bullying and suicide was most significant for non-Hispanic, LGB males. This discovery provides evidence that perhaps victims of prior discrimination may be more resilient to subsequent bullying. Although this is merely a theory, it is one that should be explored further in future research.
The results of this provide support for existing efforts aimed at reducing bullying and increasing social and community support for LGB individuals, especially youth. Young LGB individuals benefit greatly from family acceptance, strong peer alliances, and LGB groups in their communities and at school. To reduce bullying, and in particular, sexual-minority-motivated bullying, schools should strengthen their LGB programs and work to develop an academic environment that is inclusive and accepting.
Additionally, staff and faculty should be educated on the risks of bullying and the special needs of LGB youth. LeVasseur added, “Interventions that address ecological perspectives as a basis for planning successful prevention programs are needed to reduce suicide attempt by at-risk youths.” He hopes that researchers and medical personnel in both private and public sectors can work together to develop and implement such programs.
LeVasseur, Michael T., MPH, Kelvin, Elizabeth A., PhD, MPH, and Grosskopf, Nicholas A., EdD, MCHES. (2013). Intersecting identities and the association between bullying and suicide attempt among New York City youths: Results from the 2009 New York City Youth Risk Behavior Survey. American Journal of Public Health 103.6 (2013): 1082-9. ProQuest.Web.
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