ARTICLES, I NEED HELP: TEEN SUICIDE PREVENTION
Teens Who Hide Sexuality at Higher Risk of Suicide
Did you know that suicide is the third leading cause of deaths amongst teens in the United States? As those rates climb, researchers are on the hunt to figure out what causes teens to take their life. A recent study released by the American Journal of Preventative Medicine suggests that teens who are concealing their sexual orientation are at a higher risk of attempting suicide.
The survey polled around 7,000 high school students across the United States. Two of the 99 the questions concentrated on sexual orientation, while the others were related to health and risk behaviours. The focal point of the study was teens who identify as either gay or lesbian but had sexual relations with the opposite sex or both. Or those who identify as heterosexual but had sexual relations with both or the same sex. These teens are experiencing what researchers call sexual orientation discordance – they have a much higher risk of attempting suicide.
Four percent of the study showed that teens had experienced sexual orientation discordance. The responses were a whopping 32 percent of gay and lesbian students compared to only three percent of heterosexual students.
The survey then asked if the teens being polled had ever seriously contemplated suicide, if they had made a plan or if they had tried to attempt suicide over the last year. Almost half of the teens experiencing sexual orientation discordance, 46% answered yes to the question. That number was sliced by more than 50 percent when students who did not suffer from sexual orientation discordance were polled, only 22% answered yes to the question about suicide.
It’s important to note that coming out doesn’t necessarily mean that it will be easier for the teen. According to bullyingstatistics.org, 9 out of 10 LGBT teens have reported being bullied at school within the past year because of their sexual orientation.
“Understanding the challenges that adolescents experiencing discordance may encounter will help strengthen overall suicide prevention approaches in youth,” coauthor Dr. Francis Annor of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, Georgia told Reuters Health.
“It’s important to know that suicide is preventable,” Annor told Reuters Health by email.
The new findings are important “because suicide has been the tenth leading cause of death in the general U.S. population for at least a decade and the third leading cause of death among teenagers — and suicide deaths have been increasing in the U.S.,” said Dr. John Blosnich of the West Virginia University in Morgantown to NBC News. Blosnich, who wasn’t involved with this study, studies interpersonal and self-directed violence among LGBTQ groups and U.S. military veterans.
“You can imagine that a huge concern for teenagers who experience conflict with their sexual identity is whether they will be rejected by their family and friends,” Blosnich said in an email. He noted that a recently released major motion picture focuses on this very issue. The movie, from 20th Century Fox, is called “Love, Simon.”
The whole process of coming out is much more complicated than just saying, “I’m gay!” It’s a big part of it, but there are many different matters that will be running through the teens head. These questions can include questioning their sexual identity, who can they trust, will their friends and family be supportive of them and so on. Think about how you felt when sexual thoughts and feelings were developing in your teenage years – now imagine that as a teen who is gay, lesbian or bisexual that is afraid or rejects those feelings? It can be a turbulent time emotionally.
If you’re the parent of a teen that does come out to you it’s important that you make the conversation as smooth as possible. It can be hard for them to share their identity with you, so what can you do to make the conversation a little less rocky? While you might be shocked it’s important that you don’t freak out, remain calm. Yes, your own ideologies might not align with the news, but that doesn’t change the fact that you’ve raised and love your teen. Most importantly be supportive of them. One of the biggest concerns is whether or not their family will accept them. Don’t press your child, they will tell you as much as they feel comfortable sharing. Be sure to respect that.
It was stated earlier that often enough, teens who are open about their sexuality still suffer bullying because of it. Don’t tease them and don’t let their family or friends do it to them either. You might think you’re being funny or the person saying the joke, but the teen on the receiving end probably doesn’t. If you catch a friend or family doing this shut it down, tell them that it’s not cool.