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Unsupportive Community Increases Suicide Risk for Gay Youth

My friend Mr. Kurtz regularly discusses "red-state failure." He'll find another brief for his red-state failure folder in Nathan Johnson's latest blog post. Reporter Johnson reads some science and learns that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are more likely to kill themselves in conservative states.

Dr. Mark Hatzenbuehler of Columbia University studied LGB youth in 34 Oregon counties. He measured the supportiveness of their social environment by five metrics (quoted from this Medscape article, registration required)

  1. proportion of same-sex couples,
  2. proportion of Democrats,
  3. proportion of schools with gay-straight alliances,
  4. proportion of schools with anti-bullying policies specifically aimed at protecting gay students, and
  5. proportion of schools with antidiscrimination policies that included sexual orientation.

Anti-bullying legislation: you know, the kind of legal protections that the South Dakota Legislature again killed this year, leaving us one of four states with no such legislation. The kind of protection that the Rapid City school board showed the decency to implement last year, over the objection of a handful of anti-social activists.

Dr. Hartzenbuehler factored out other sociodemographic variables and found that gay, lesbian, and bisexual teens in unsupportive social environments were 20% more likely to kill themselves.

Now we can't exactly mandate that everyone register as Democrats (although HB 1217 sets a nice precedent for at least requiring everyone to read the Madville Times before registering Republican). Increasing the proportion of same-sex couples is probably beyond our policy reach. We could ask same-sex couples to make their presence known so young people have more role models to look to, but that's asking a lot even of adults who may keep their relationships quiet to avoid harassment in unsupportive communities. Changes to school policy offer the easiest route to helping young people; Dr. Hartzenbuehler says it's pretty simple and straightforward for schools to adopt policies that can reduce the chance that some of their students will kill themselves.

But don't think that starting a club and passing anti-bullying rules will make life perfect for non-straight kids. Hartzenbuehler's research finds that, independent of community supportiveness, gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth are still five times more likely to commit suicide than heterosexual youth.


  1. larry kurtz 2011.04.24

    Liberals: it's ok to stand up to bullies like Jacklow, Hickey and Russell. Turn them out post haste.

  2. larry kurtz 2011.04.24

    Just because this will get deleted from the current stupid post at the War Toilet:

    Well first, Krusti rejected Larry’s advances and second: Most Interns Loathe Farmers. Thirdly, if farmers are to be subsidized they should grow food, not feed. Fourth: non point source pollution should not be subsidized. Fifth is a day’s worth of vodka for Diedrich, who graduated Catholic school eighth grade and was an altar boy with ip. Sixth: No, we didn’t mess around. Seven is the number of rolls under Stace Nelson’s chin. Eight is the number of legs Krusti has. Nine, Make Insurance Lennox Friendly and ten: it’s nothing the Yellowstone supervolcano won’t fix.

  3. Charlie Johnson 2011.04.24

    Any suicide is one too many especially when the situation involves our youth. Any society that will allow labels and bias against people of any sexual orientation is one that is doomed to fail both in it's ethical character and moral perspective.

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