Last Monday, September 10th, was World Suicide Prevention Day, designated by the World Health Organization to promote world-wide commitment and initiatives to prevent suicide. On that day, the 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention was published by the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention and U.S. Surgeon General Regina Benjamin. The strategy details multiple goals for reducing suicide, such as integrating suicide prevention into health care policies and changing the way the public talks about suicide and suicide prevention.
Did you know that:
- · The lifetime prevalence of suicide attempts in gay and bisexual male adolescents and adults was four times that of comparable heterosexual males.
- · Lifetime suicide attempt rates among lesbian and bisexual females were almost twice those of heterosexual females.
- · A 2009 study from the National Gay & Lesbian Task Force found that 41% of adult respondents reported suicide attempts.
Why are these figures so high? It’s no wonder when The Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network (GLSEN) reports that 9 out of 10 GLBT teens (and younger) are the victims of anti-gay bullying. As we all know, the effects of bullying are negative: low self-esteem, self-hatred, and suicide ideation (thinking about it).
How Does Your School Counteract Bullying?
As most bullying happens in school or on a phone or computer screen (cyberbullying) away from parental eyes, parents need to know what is happening at their child’s school to combat this invasive problem. Find out if your school has the following:
· Gay-Straight Alliance
· Safespace kits provided by GLSEN
· Punishment for the Bully
· Training about GLBT issues for teachers, counselors, administrators
If your school doesn’t have these safeguards, contact GLSEN (http://www.glsen.org/anti-bullying resources ) about instituting them. If GLSEN’s educational tools are not carried out in your child’s school, get in touch with the American Civil Liberties Union (http://www.aclu.org)
Safe Schools Improvement Act in Congress
There are only seven states (California, Iowa, Maryland, New Jersey, Oregon, Vermont and Washington State) that have laws that specifically protect GLBT students from bullying based on sexual orientation or gender identity. Recently, the Safe Schools Improvement Act, legislation that would amend federal anti-bullying law to include sexual orientation and gender identity, was re-introduced in Congress. It would amend the Safe and Drug-Free Schools and Communities Act to require schools that receive federal funds to adopt codes of conduct specifically prohibiting bullying and harassment, including bullying on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, as well as race and religion.
Rehearse at Home About How to Deal with Bullying
Have a plan in place so your kids will be prepared for protecting themselves against bullies. See my blog posts: (http: //straightparentgaykid.blogspot.com “Parental Homework for Anti-Bullying Defenses,” and “Anti-Bullying Tactics Begin at Home,” 9.21.11). For more tips on how to deal with bullying, see http: //About.com GLBT Teens “What GLBT Teens Can Do About Cyberbullying” and “What’s the Deal With Anti-Gay Bullying and Harassment?”
Family Acceptance Biggest Buffer Against Suicide
LGBT youth need to know that there are people out there to help them. If you suspect your child is depressed, seek out a mental health professional for her or him. (see my blog “Get Thee to a Shrink”). To familiarize yourself with the warning signs of suicide, see (http: gayteensabout.com/od.informationforparent1/a/Gay-TeenSuicide-Warning-Signs.html)If he/she even talks about suicide, take your child seriously.
Here are some Hotlines to help avoid another tragic death:
Trevor Lifeline of The Trevor Project, the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to GLBT community. 866-488-7386
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255 (TALK)
When Your Child Is Gay: What You Need To Know
For more detailed advice, see book, co-authored with a mother of a gay son and a psychiatrist, Jonathan L. Tobkes, M.D.