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New Study Links Anti-LGBT Bullying With Suicide, HIV, STDs

May 16, 2011 1:26 pm ET by Equality Matters staff

A new study has revealed that LGBT youth who experience high levels of bullying and harassment at school tend to report decreased physical and mental health, including increased suicide attempts that require medical care and increased rates of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases:

Analyzing data from the Family Acceptance Project's young adult survey, the authors examined experiences related to school victimization during adolescence based on known or perceived LGBT identity among 245 LGBT young adults, ages 21 to 25. They found that LGBT young adults who were victimized in school because of their LGBT identity reported much higher health and adjustment problems, while students with low levels of school victimization had higher self-esteem and life satisfaction as young adults.

"We now have evidence of the lasting personal and social cost of failing to make our schools safe for all students. Prior studies have shown that school victimization of LGBT adolescents affects their health and mental health. In our study we see the effects of school victimization up to a decade later or more. It is clear that there are public health costs to LGBT-based bullying over the long-term," said lead author, Stephen T. Russell, Ph.D., Distinguished Professor, University of Arizona.

The study's findings were released just days after the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department testified before the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights about the importance and effectiveness of school-based efforts to reduce harassment and bullying against LGBT students. According to Jocelyn Samuels, Senior Counselor to the Assistant Attorney General for the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division:

[P]roactive school efforts to prevent harassment and bullying and respond when it occurs can have significant effects in limiting the repercussions that those subject to harassment all too frequently suffer. For example, a recent study measured the suicide risk of lesbian, gay, and bisexual students and found that the risk was 20% lower in schools with an LGBT "supportive environment," that includes a gay-straight alliance and non-discrimination or anti-bullying policies that include specific protections for lesbian, gay, and bisexual students.

These findings once again demonstrate the importance of making sure that school environments are LGBT-inclusive. When conservative politicians fight to keep discussions of sexual orientation and gender identity out of the classroom, they're doing more than just pandering to social conservatives - they're putting the lives and well-being of LGBT youth at risk.


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