Teen Health 411
Teen Health 411

Suicide Risk and Gay, Lesbian and Bisexual (GLB) Youth

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Every time I hear about a teen suicide that no one can explain, my heart breaks. You know the stories in the paper that report that a healthy, happy, athletic, beautiful, popular, and smart student has taken his (or her) own life and no one understands why. I always fear that the student had a secret that they believed would make them unlovable, and sadly, sometimes that secret is their sexual orientation.

The November 2006 issue of the Journal of Adolescent Health included an article about what protects GLB youth from suicide risk. The research suggested that gay, lesbian and bisexual (GLB) youth are particularly vulnerable to suicidaal feelings, although family connectedness, teacher caring, other adult caring, and school safety all protect youth from suicide attempts.

Data for the article came from the 2004 Minnesota Student Survey of 9th and 12th grade students in which 21,927 sexually active youth were grouped according to the gender of their sex partner(s) into GLB and non-GLB groups. Four protective factors and suicidal ideation and attempts were compared across groups. The results reported that:
  • 2,255 respondents had same-gender experience;
  • over half of GLB students had thought about suicide;
  • and 37.4% reported a suicide attempt.
GLB youth reported significantly lower levels of each protective factor than their non-GLB peers, suggesting that suicidal ideation and attempts could be reduced if GLB youth perceived more support from their families and schools.

Do me a favor and tell your kids - in whatever way you can - that you love them unconditionally, and that you love them no matter what their sexual orientation is or will be. Be clear - say the words - "you know that I love you more than anything in the world, and that I would love you just as much if you were gay, lesbian, or bisexual, too!" Don't let your teens have a secret that could kill them!

Photo credit: djwudi

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About the Author

Dr. Brown is a developmental psychologist specializing in adolescent health.

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