Science-- there's something for everyone

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Recipe for preventing teen suicide: support, don’t bully


Actually, that recipe seems pretty obvious.  However, in light of recent suicides among the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community, that message seems worth repeating. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for adolescents, and it’s particularly high for LGBT kids. What can be done about this?

Richard Liu and Brian Mustanski of Northwestern University recruited 246 young people between age16 and 20 who self-identified as LGBT for their study.  The volunteers were assessed at the start of the study and again every six months for two years.  The kids were evaluated for a variety of thoughts and behaviors: thoughts of suicide, depression, impulsivity, examples of self-harming (cutting), sensation seeking, gender nonconformity, hopelessness, and history of suicide attempt. The volunteers also testified to how often and how severely they were victimized specifically for being LGBT and how much social support they received from their families and communities.

Not surprisingly, LGBT victimization and low social support correlated with high self-harm and thoughts or attempts of suicide.  In fact, LGBT victimization was the second greatest predictor of suicide for young people, being surpassed only by previous suicide attempts.

So, to recap, to save teenagers lives, stop bullying them and let them know they are valued members of their community.  Come to think of it, that’s pretty good advice for all people, not just for LGBT kids.

You can watch commentary by the authors below.