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Local attitudes in Oregon shape risk of suicide attempts among lesbian, gay youths, study shows

You can go ahead and mark this in the “duh” category but a new study, conducted in Oregon, suggests that gay youth are more likely to attempt suicide in homophobic environments.

The study, in the journal Pediatrics, scored the social environment in 34 Oregon counties using five criteria, including the share of schools with anti-bullying programs and anti-discrimnation policies that cover sexual orientation. The findings suggest that expanding these programs to more schools could substantially reduce suicides and suicide attempts by young people.

The study of nearly 32,000 11th-grade students in Oregon found that LGB youth were more than five times as likely to have attempted suicide in the previous 12 months, as their heterosexual peers (21.5 percent vs. 4.2 percent). Using a new tool designed to measure social environment, Hatzenbuehler found that LGB youth living in a social environment that was more supportive of gays and lesbians were 25 percent less likely to attempt suicide than LGB youth living in environments that were less supportive.

The five measures assessed as indicators of the social environment surrounding LGB youth include:

1) proportion of schools with anti-bullying policies specifically protecting LGB students

2) Proportion of schools with Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs)

3) proportion of schools with anti-discrimination policies that included sexual orientation

4) proportion of same-sex couples

5) proportion of Democrats in the county.

Another interesting tidbit comes from the fabulous AutoStraddle:

P.S. What struck me about some of the media coverage of this study, however, is the number of media outlets which reported this study as assessing the suicide risk of “LGBT” students (here’s one example) (here’s another), despite the fact that Hatzenbuehler never mentioned doing any research on trans students specifically (aside from trans students who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual, obvs). Trans students face an overlapping but also distinct and arguably far more arduous set of challenges in school environments and there are formidable challenges to adequately studying trans students (in fact, this study was conducted in Oregon because it was the only state which tracked the qualifiers necessary to even study gay students), so their exclusion from this study isn’t necessarily alarming — but I feel like for journalists to toss the “T” in there like it’s just another letter does a disservice to the community (especially when suicide-prevention organizations like The Trevor Project don’t even have a transgender person on their board) by giving itself credit for something it didn’t do. It’s damaging to say you represent a group you’re not actually representing, like how LOGO is all like “we are GLBT TV” so like “lesbians have a teevee channel too” but we don’t because let’s be real, Logo is just G-TV at this point. Obviously that’s a less serious example but you know what I mean?

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