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Anti-Gay Bullying Tied to Teen Depression, Suicide
Date:5/16/2013

By Randy Dotinga
HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, May 16 (HealthDay News) -- Students targeted because they're believed to be gay -- as many as one in seven young teens -- are much more likely than others to be suicidal and depressed, a new survey finds.

More than 10 percent of eighth-grade boys and girls reported that they're victimized because of perceived sexual orientation, according to a large survey of students in Washington state.

"It has a profound impact on their quality of life and the way they think of themselves," said Donald Patrick, a professor of health services at the University of Washington in Seattle. "Those in eighth grade are in a particularly vulnerable position."

These children "feel alone in life, that they don't feel as good as other people and their self-esteem is highly affected," Patrick said.

The survey results, published online May 16 in the American Journal of Public Health, don't offer insight into whether bullying contributes to depression and suicidal thoughts in its victims. It's possible that kids with existing mental illnesses may be more likely to be bullied and perceived as gay.

Nor does the research establish a clear cause-and-effect relationship between bullying and suicidal thoughts. But Patrick said "it's clear that there's an association, and I wouldn't be so worried about the causation." Prior research has also suggested that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender children are more likely to be suicidal and hurt themselves.

A string of teen suicides in 2010 -- including the death of Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi -- put the issue in the public eye. Syndicated columnist Dan Savage launched a campaign called "It Gets Better" to give hope to gay teens that their lives will improve. Participants have included numerous celebrities and politicians, including President Barack Obama.

Based on the new findings, bully-prevention programs
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