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.
POSSIBLE WAYS OF REDUCING SUCH MINORITY STRESS:
– 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.
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David Hosier BSc Hons; MSc; PGDE(FAHE).