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Support May Help Curb Suicide Among Gay Youths
Date:4/18/2011

d they were physically or verbally bullied in 2009.

To help counter this, syndicated sex columnist Dan Savage, who is gay, launched the "It Gets Better" campaign last September. Its YouTube site features successful gay adults from all walks of life talking about their experiences with bullying -- and how they came through it.

Hatzenbuehler's study was "one of the first to examine the role of environment" in bullying and suicides, instead of focusing on such individual risk factors as depression, which previous studies had done, he said.

The study also did not rely on the teens' own perceptions of their social environment but instead developed a set of five more objective factors to characterize the environment. They were:

  • The proportion of same-sex couples living in the county
  • The proportion of registered Democrats living in the county. Hatzenbuehler said that earlier studies had indicated that political ideology was associated with attitudes toward sexuality.
  • Whether the school had a gay-straight alliance
  • Whether the student handbook specified anti-bullying policies
  • Whether the handbook included anti-discrimination policies based on sexual orientation

Hatzenbuehler surveyed almost 32,000 11th-grade students in 34 counties in Oregon, 4.4 percent of whom were LGB. He found that almost 22 percent of LGB youth had attempted suicide in the past year, compared with only 4.2 percent in the heterosexual population.

But living in a more supportive environment reduced that risk by 20 percent. A supportive environment was also linked with a 9 percent lower risk for attempted suicide among heterosexual teens.

"This is a road map for how we can begin to reduce suicide attempts among LGB youth," Hatzenbuehler said. "There are three relatively straightforward things we can do. If we allow gay/lesbian alliances in schools and include anti-discrimination and anti-bullying policies in s
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