Where there's more support, fewer suicides among gay teens
April 18th, 2011
12:01 AM ET

Where there's more support, fewer suicides among gay teens

Dan Savage knows what it's like to be teased for being different.  Savage, who writes the syndicated relationship and sex advice column Savage Love,  remembers being mocked by his homeroom teacher in the eighth grade.  Why? He loved to cook.  "And of course, that was code for being homo. I felt like he was painting a bullseye on my back," recalled Savage.

Savage has been at the forefront of the movement to stop teen bullying.  Last fall, after the suicides of Justin Aaberg and Billy Lucas, teens bullied for being gay, Dan and his husband, Terry Miller, created a You Tube video to encourage kids who are facing harassment.  The video exploded into the It Gets Better Project.

Savage's project came to mind when I heard about a new study out in the Journal Pediatrics about gay, lesbian and bisexual kids and suicide.  The headline:  Lesbian, gay and bisexual youth living in places that are not supportive are 20 percent more likely to commit suicide than LGB kids living in supportive environments.

The study looked at counties in Oregon and developed a composite index of the social environment.  It measured for five things:  the presence of gay-straight alliances, anti-bullying policies, and anti-discrimination policies in schools.  It also took into account the proportion of same-sex couples living in the counties and political leanings.

"It really challenges the myth that there is something inherent about being gay that puts you at risk for suicide risk," says study author Mark Hatzenbuehler of Columbia University.   The study also found that in counties where there were support systems for gay, lesbian and bisexual teens, the suicide rate among heterosexual kids also decreased.  "We are showing the social environment plays a role. If we want to reduce suicide attempts we need to take some of these concrete steps towards improving the social environment," says Hatzenbuehler.

The It Gets Better Project continues to grow.  Savage and Miller's new book,"It Gets Better: Coming Out, Overcoming Bullying, and Creating a Life Worth Living, " came out in March.  He hopes the recent attention towards bullying and suicide is a wake-up call to parents, teachers and other adults.  "You can't make gay kids straight by bullying," says Savage, "You can only make them dead."

soundoff (123 Responses)
  1. Dee

    I'm really sorry, but I think it's irresponsible to blame others for suicide – which is a personal decision that is made by all kinds of people for different reasons.

    I can live peacefully with gay neighbors, but please don't use articles like this that really insinuate that Christians (even if they're not named) are to blame for gays feeling 'bad' about themselves. Enough with the preachy agenda. We never hear the end of it from CNN! I've NEVER seen anyone harassing gay people in my town – once in HS, but lots of people were bullied in school. Maybe mass schooling is the real problem.

    April 18, 2011 at 18:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Cmil

      Just because you don't see something happening in your immediate surroundings doesn't mean that it doesn't happen anywhere else. If you knew anything about psychology at all, then you wouldn't use this argument. Every year, thousands upon thousands of kids commit suicide because of bullying, not just gay kids. It's not "irresponsible" to cave in to pressure. Imagine having a job where every day your coworkers told you how terrible of a job you were doing and how you're going to get fired any day. You'd probably quit wouldn't you? That's what these kids are doing. Quitting. Life. Words CAN harm. Don't disrespect all the people that have ever given in to the constant pressure around you.

      November 7, 2012 at 15:46 | Report abuse |
  2. cwest

    @ Mouselol,

    First let me say....I never said that following God or making the choice to NOT follow your "fleshy desires" or orientation as you call it wouldn't be the hardest thing you would ever do. Know this...The Lord would never never never not help you to get to a point in your life where you would look back and say that you were indeed glad you made the right choice. The simple fact is this....we all have a choice...to follow God or not. The Bible is clear that this lifestyle is wrong....just like gambling, glu-ttony, ste-aling, and mur-der....just to name a few. I'm not judging you...make no mistake about it...YOU ARE NOT A BAD PERSON...All of us are sinners...born into this world. God gives us all a choice to follow him "wholeheartedly" or not....But...just when we do accept God in our lives we have to "deny our self" or another way to say this is "d-ie to self". That means we turn from ALL wrong and do our very best to not sin in any way b/c that is what God calls us to do. That doesn't mean we can still gamble if we want or still do the same things as before b/c we are to be "of this world" and not "in this world". I encourage you....ask God for help b/c he will see you through to make the right choice.

    April 19, 2011 at 15:04 | Report abuse | Reply
    • mouselol

      Wow you really will never get it will you. I'm not sinning. I don't covet anyone's anything, I don't steal, I don't lie and I don't cheat. My partner and I help out many charities and the only thing I am guilty is of loving someone who happens to be the same orientation as I am. If that is the worst thing I do in this world, then I think your Lord will forgive me. There are much worse things in this world and whether I am straight or gay will really in the end not affect your life one iota. Take care Cwest.

      April 19, 2011 at 16:32 | Report abuse |
  3. cwest

    @ Mouselol,

    I wish you the best....but sin is sin...this lifestyle you say "isn't a sin"...really is. See Romans 1 or 1 Corinthians 6:9. I'm not co-ndeming you...but the sin your living in.

    I encourage you to really meditate on those versus....there are six passages in the Bible that speak against this lifestyle. I pointed out only two in the New Testament.

    You not a bad person....believe me...but the sin you insist on living in IS....Peace.

    April 19, 2011 at 17:05 | Report abuse | Reply
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