Adults need to be supportive of youth who identify as LGBT
Adolescence can be one of the most difficult periods of time in a youth’s life. It can be even more difficult if he or she is experiencing an attraction to someone of the same gender. Even when a youth who identifies as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) has the support of his or her immediate family, the youth will certainly have to deal with the struggles of being accepted by society. A recent survey indicates youth who identify as LGBT are more likely to engage in risky behavior than those who identify as heterosexual.
The government study asked about dozens of risky behaviors, ranging from wearing a bicycle helmet, to drug usage and attempting suicide. The surveys were completed by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) between 2001 and 2009 in five states and in four of the largest city schools systems.
Some results, which vary by survey site:
• Eight to 19 percent of heterosexual students said they currently smoke, compared to 20–48 percent of LGBT students.
• Four to 10 percent of heterosexual students said they attempted suicide in the previous year and about 15–34 percent of lesbian and gay students reported attempted suicide, while 21–32 percent of bisexual students reported attempted suicide.
• Three to six percent of heterosexual students said they threw up or used laxatives to help control their weight, compared to 12–20 percent of LGBT students.
The survey did not ask the students why they engaged in riskier behaviors but LGBT students deal with stigma, disapproval, social rejection and abuse regarding their sexual orientation. The CDC report did note, however, that risk behaviors can be related to how people feel about themselves and their environment.
Recent widespread media attention on suicides committed by LGBT youth has focused on those youth being bullied and harassed about their sexual orientation. Another study indicates LGBT youth who report being bullied were 5.6 times more likely to attempt suicide, twice as likely to report being clinically depressed and more than twice as likely to report being diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection than those who were not bullied.
Adults need to be supportive of youth who identify as LGBT. They will need someone they can talk to without feeling embarrassed. When a youth confides in you about his or her sexuality, be non-judgmental, empathetic and trustworthy. Show support by not allowing homophobic jokes to be told and not allowing words and phrases to be used that put down LGBT. Let the youth and others know you support people who are LGBT and help keep our kids safe.
Keeping Our Kids Safe is brought to you by the Delaware Police Department and School Resource Officer Rod Glazer.