New Massachusettes Anti-Bullying Law Will Help Reduce Risk of Suicide among Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Youth

For Immediate Distribution
April 24, 2014

Laura Rodriguez,, (310) 956-2425
Donald Gatlin,, (202) 821-7923
Mark Hatzenbuehler,, (212) 342-4769
Ilan Meyer,, (310) 825-9932

Gay-Straight Alliances, anti-bullying policies, and LGBT inclusive health curricula and professional development opportunities proven to reduce LGB suicide risk

LOS ANGELES— According to a new study, lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) youth living in states and cities with more protective school climates are significantly less likely to report one-year suicidal thoughts than LGB youth living in states and cities with less protective school climates. The study, entitled, “Protective School Climates and Reduced Risk for Suicide Ideation in Sexual Minority Youth,” is co-authored by Mark L. Hatzenbuehler, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University; Michelle Birkett, Feinberg School of Medicine, Northwestern University; Aimee Van Wagenen, Center for Population Research in LGBT Health, The Fenway Institute; and Ilan H. Meyer, Williams Institute, UCLA School of Law.

“The study affirms that school climate is a critical component to comprehensive suicide prevention programs aimed at reducing LGB disparities in suicide risk,” said co-author Ilan Meyer, Williams Senior Scholar of Public Policy.

In the most protective school climates, lesbian and gay students had about a one third reduction and bisexual students had a fifth reduction in suicidal thoughts.  Associations between positive school climates and reduced risk for suicidal thoughts remained significant even after controlling for potential confounders. The magnitude and direction of the results were similar for suicide plans and attempts, but these outcomes did not reach statistical significance.

“Given schools’ wide variation in protective policies and practices, the study suggests educators and youth advocates have a significant opportunity to take concrete steps to reduce the risk of suicide among LGB youth,” said Mark Hatzenbuehler, the study’s first author.

The study, funded in part by an NIH grant for the Center for Population Research in LGBT Health at The Fenway Health Institute, looked at schools in eight cities and states: Chicago, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, New York City, Rhode Island, San Francisco and Vermont. The percentages of schools with varying types of protective school climate policies are set out below:

•  45% had a Gay-Straight Alliance or similar club.
•  45% provided curricula on health matters relevant to LGBTQ youth (e.g., HIV).
•  62% facilitated access to providers off school property that provided health and other services specifically targeted to LGBTQ youth.
•  73% encouraged staff to attend trainings on creating supportive environments for LGBTQ youth.
•  90% prohibited harassment based on sexual orientation or gender identity.

The study used a representative sample of public school youth pooled from 2005 and 2007 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Surveys (YRBSs). Data on school climates was from the Center for Disease Control’s 2010 School Health Profile survey.

Click here for full study.

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