Young, gay people have a significantly higher suicide rate than their heterosexual peers.
This can, in part, be explained by the existence of homophobic, prejudiced and discriminative attitudes which, sadly, still persist within certain sectors of society such as the church and, even today, schools (about 25 per cent of gay teens report having been the victim of homophobic bullying by their peers at school – bullying may be physical, emotional (such as name-calling, ostracism/social rejection etc) and increasingly occurs via the means of the internet/social media).
Of enormous significance, too, is that gay teens can experience homophobia, prejudice and discrimination in the very place that they should feel most safe, secure, protected and emotionally supported: their own home. Indeed, some parents throw their children out of the family home upon discovering that they are gay.
The psychological harm this does is captured, I think, by the following statistic:
A gay teenager whose sexuality is not accepted by his/her parents is EIGHT TIMES MORE LIKELY TO ATTEMPT SUICIDE than are a gay teenager whose sexuality is accepted by his/her parents.
MINORITY STRESS THEORY:
This theory puts forward the view that being in a minority can lead to being treated in a prejudiced manner, being subject to disapproval, nonacceptance, rejection and to being on the receiving end of hostility from others. It has been suggested that the stress of being in a minority that is treated in such a way is a major factor increasing the risk that people in such a minority group will attempt (successfully or not) suicide.
– the family, school and neighbourhood (research has shown that liberal neighbourhoods are, in general, more supportive of gay people than are conservative neighbourhoods) providing the gay teenager with proper psychological support
– educating school children about relevant issues
– employing counsellors in schools who have been trained to deal with issues related to being a gay teenager
– issuing grants to schools to help them fund the education/counselling referred to above
– about 33% of gay youths have attempted suicide
– gay youths are a massive 400% more likely to attempt suicide than are their heterosexual peers
NB: It is thought the actual figures could be considerably higher due to the fact that many gay teenagers conceal their sexuality.
I remember my step-mother telling me, shortly after I had spent five days in a coma on life support due to a suicide attempt, that I should not be gay as it ‘offended god’ and ‘it was obvious he had only created men and women to physically fit together, not men and men or women and women.’
She was a religious fundamentalist and was by no means averse to shouting at me in ‘tongues’ (her phrase). The first time this happened was when I was thirteen, a few weeks after my highly unstable mother had thrown me out of her house.
She also attended cultish meetings at the local ‘Charismatic Church. One such meeting involved a bizarre phenomenon known, somewhat esoterically, as ‘Laughter of the Lord’, in which members of the congregation ‘taken over by the holy spirit’ ‘would roll around on the floor of the church hysterically laughing, galvanized into mass hysteria by a maniacal, raving evangelist preacher.
Later in life, she coerced my father, when he was dying of cancer, into driving two hundred miles to see a ‘faith healer’ when he was dying of cancer. Needless to say, it didn’t work and he died shortly afterwards.
I know what it’s like to grow up knowing, every day, that you’re not only despised but, due to feelings entirely beyond one’s control, thought of as deserving to ‘burn in hell for all eternity.’
Such domestic behaviour helps to produce the fertile soil of out of which wider public hostility and aggression against gay people grows and flourishes, many gay teenagers, even today, still commit suicide.
David Hosier BSC Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).
David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).