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Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender- Identified Adolescent Depression and Suicide

By nirvanalov3 Apr 15, 2013 2264 Words
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender- Identified adolescent Depression and Suicide

Physical and emotional abuse within the gay, lesbian and bisexual (GLB) or gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBTQ) community is reoccurring and devastating. The after effects of the abuse, however, can be far more devastating than the abuse itself in some cases. Studies have shown that GLB adolescents are at risk for an increase in mental health issues. Students aged 13–19 years in Boston indicated that gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered (GLBT) students were three and a half times more likely to engage in self-harm and five times more likely to report suicidal ideation than heterosexual students (Almeida, Johnson, Corliss, Molnar, & Azrael, 2009). Research has shown that in order to help prevent depression and suicidal tendencies among adolescents, the following is required: A sense of belonging, the ability to talk and express themselves and their emotions, little to no substance abuse, healthy adolescent-peer, adolescent- parent, and adolescent authoritative relationships, availability of mentors and information on mental health issues such as depression. The following studies demonstrate how not only how often depression and suicidal tendencies or actions occur, but that there are treatments and options available for those that are in need of help to solve or deal with psychological, emotional, and physical problems. General knowledge of what the terms gay, lesbian, straight, bisexual, and transgender can be helpful when researching the depression and suicide rates in GLBT – identified adolescents. The term Gay, as defined in Human Sexuality third edition by Roger R. Hock, is a term used for homosexual, and is often applied to both males and females. Lesbian, also defined in Human Sexuality is a female with a homosexual orientation. Straight can be defined as a male or female having an both physical and emotional attachment and desire for the opposite sex/gender. Bisexual is a term used for a male or female that is both physically and emotionally attracted to both sexes/genders (male and female). Lastly, a transgender is formally defined in Human Sexuality as individuals who do not self-identify as the gender that conforms to their biological sex. The importance of a healthy relationship between young GLB adolescents and their peers, parents, etc. is one that is discussed throughout many articles. Just the same as a heterosexual adolescent, needs guidance and reassurance to be successful in life. Young adults build themselves off of good habits and healthy surroundings. The GLB community is no different; they are bullied just the same and have just as many problems. The only thing that is really different is that they have a title and that they are interested in the same sex. With that interest and curiosity, there will be questions that will lead to that youth going to their peers and asking questions. Without the proper guidance, this youth can be misled. A mislead youth is one of the causes of depression, which then can lead to suicide and/or suicidal tendencies. This guidance can be from any number of places, whether it is at home, from a parental figure, at school, from a teacher or guidance counselor, or at a medical facility, from a certified doctor, nurse, or crisis specialist. In the article, Attachment-Based Family Therapy for Suicidal Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Adolescents: A Treatment Development Study and Open Trial with Preliminary Findings conducted by Gary Diamond et al., the researchers wanted to adapt attachment based family therapy (ABFT) to help suicidal gay, lesbian, and bisexual adolescents. In two different phases, the researchers adapted the ABFT to fit the needs of the study that they were conducting. By the second phase, the researchers were able to take ten suicidal GLB adolescents and put them through an intense twelve week ABFT treatment. During phase two, Adolescents’ report of suicidal ideation, depressive symptoms, and maternal attachment–related anxiety and avoidance were gathered at pretreatment, six weeks, and twelve weeks (post treatment). The results of the second phase suggest this population can be recruited and successfully treated with a family based therapy, evidenced by high levels of treatment retention and significant decreases in suicidal ideation, depressive symptoms, and maternal attachment–related anxiety and avoidance. Though this is a small break through, it should be kept in mind that this is the first time the ABFT has been adapted and tested on suicidal GLB youth. Alcohol and drug abuse within the GLB community is unfortunately common because of the added pressure, physical, and physiological abuse. They seek out drugs and alcohol to run away from their problems because they think that it will help, when all abusing substances does is prevent one from having good judgment and usually makes a bad situation twice as worse (Jordan, 2009). The GLB youth community may be at even higher risks than heterosexual youth for developing problems with substance abuse due, in part, to negative societal attitudes about homosexuality (McCallum & McLauren, 2011). There is a lot of stress put on the younger generations to fit in and do the right thing, and all they have to be influenced by are their experiences. These experiences include what happens at school, in the work place (if old enough), what happens at home, and what goes on in their social groups. These experiences may not always be the greatest or well thought out and may not give them enough to know that what they are feeling can be natural curiosity. In the journal titled: Alcohol and drug use and related consequences among gay, lesbian, and bisexual college students: Role of experiencing violence, feeling safe on campus, and perceived items, researchers Elizabeth Reed et al., conducted a research study on 988 random college students, both GLB and heterosexual students, which were recruited via email to complete an online survey to find the differences between gay, lesbian, and bisexual (GLB) and non-GLB university students in alcohol and other drug use (AOD) and related consequences as well as the relevance of violence, perceived safety, and stress to any such differences in AOD use and related concerns. The results of the study stated that in comparison to heterosexual students, GLB students were more likely to report they recently used and/ or provided drugs more frequent, negative AOD consequences and having seriously thought about/attempted suicide due to AOD use in the past year. This makes sense though, with all of the chemicals clashing with the raging hormones in their young bodies, drugs and alcohol are definitely going to have a negative effect, just from the simple fact that they are still growing and they are slowly killing not only their liver and kidneys, but also their own lives altogether. All it takes is one drink or one hit to drop you in the deep end, and the outcome usually is not pretty. There are options available, not only to help prevent drug and alcohol abuse, but to also help cope with the addiction. Simple activities such as an after school sport or club can help keep this generation (and the generations to come) of young adults away from bad habits such as substance abuse. Another is just having information readily available for when the time of curiosity comes. Information can be presented as videos, songs, fliers, or even posters. Readily available information brings up the next topic of the importance of communication between the GLB youth and everyone else around them. Having them know and understand that there is nothing truly different, and the fact that it is okay for them to express themselves in healthy, non-threatening ways can be one of the most important ways to keep a GLB adolescent away from depression, suicide, and suicidal tendencies. Information (as mentioned before) can be presented in numerous ways, and these ways can become very creative. Parent, or parent figures, can come up with games or activities that can promote the acceptance of their decision or curiosity and provide a healthy environment in which they can expand and not have to worry about the pressures of being different. Information can also come from school teachers and school counselors. Teachers and counselors are generally involved with unique situations involving peer pressure, and students under pressure in general, and are usually a bit more equipped to handle a GLB student that is depressed, suicidal, or has suicidal tendencies. Most school counselors have taken classes or have experience with helping young adults deal with tough situations. There are also the options of the student getting involved with groups that support their choice, such as a Gay Straight Alliance (GSA). Groups like GSA bring the GLB youth together along with their allies and help them not only with problems they may not be able to discuss with a parent/ parent figure or other adults in general and gives them a chance to know what it is like to not be alone. Some schools that provide clubs such as GSA encourage their school counselors to be like a mentor or the go to person for advising on not just club related issues and ideas because of their experience in their life and with the students. In the journal titled: Improving the lives of students, gay and straight alike: Gay- Straight Alliances and the role of school psychologists by Heather Murphy, a researcher (Murphy) wrote an article which reviews the literature on GLBT student risk in terms of the benefits of a GSA and guides school psychologists on how to start and advise a GSA in their schools. In the article, it states that Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning (LGBTQ) students are at risk for peer rejection, lack of school support, and abuse/victimization both verbally and physically in a school setting. Putting the article to the side, with a GSA club in the school, it provides a comforting setting that reaches out to troubled students. The best part of a GSA is that the students do not even have to be gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, or questioning their sexual identity and/or orientation, though many of the students in high school are at that point. It is said that 4.5% of students in high school identify as being gay, lesbian, bisexual, or transgender (Reis & Saewyc, 1999). Having information available for all students, not just GLBTQ- identified students can be helpful as well. It is natural for young adults to be curious, and when they start to ask questions about what his friend Johnny means when he calls himself a transgender, any information is good to have. Research has shown that lesbian, gay, and bisexual orientations represent normal forms of human experience and normal aspects of human sexuality (American Psychological Association, 1995).

GLBT-identified students deserve equal access to education and mental health services, as heterosexual students and the school setting should provide an environment that is safe and supportive of academic or social achievement for all students (National Association of School Psychologists, 2006). Having resources available to all students can help reduce the number of GLBT-identified depression, mental health issues, suicides, and suicidal tendencies. This will help stop bullying and produce a safer environment for everyone, no matter what (or who) they identify themselves as. There are many studies done on not just gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender- identified adolescents, but also adults well into their “older years”. Of the ones provided in this paper, there are studies done on soldiers with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and the “don’t ask don’t tell” policy. It is important to keep an open mind now in the twenty-first century, especially with all of the accomplishments that have been made with equal rights movement and psychological break throughs, one of which made homosexuality not a mental disorder. A person is a person, no matter who they are attracted to (or not attracted to) and it should not be the public’s right to judge a young adult for being curious about their surroundings. Curiosity is natural for all humans, it has always been that way, and it will continue on in that direction for the rest of the time that humans inhabit the earth. Human sexuality can be defined, researched, and the face of it can be changed, but it will always be how a person can truly identify themselves and those around them.


Almeida, J., Johnson, R. M., Corliss, H. L., Molnar, B. E., & Azrael, D. (2009). Emotional distress among LGBT youth: The influence of perceived discrimination based on sexual orientation. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, 38, 1001–1014

Diamond, G. M., Diamond, G. S., Levy, S., Closs, C., Ladipo, T., & Siqueland, L. (2012). Attachment-Based Family Therapy for Suicidal Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual. Psychotherapy, 49(1), 62-71. Hock, R. R. (2012). Human Sexuality (Third Edition ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson Education. Jordan, K. M. (2009). Substance Abuse Among Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning Adolescents. School Psychology Review, 29(2), 201-206. McCallum, C., & McLauren, S. (2011). Sense of Belonging and Depressive. Journal of Homosexuality, 37-41. Murphy, H. E. (2012). IMPROVING THE LIVES OF STUDENTS, GAY AND STRAIGHT ALIKE: GAY-STRAIGHT. Psychology in the schools, 49, 9. Reed, E., Prado, G., Matsumoto, A., & Amaro, H. (2010). Alcohol and drug use and related consequences among gay, lesbian and bisexual. Addictive Behaviors, 35, 168-171. Reis, E., & Saewyc, E. (1999). Eighty-three thousand youth: Selected findings of eight population-based studies- as they pertain to anti-gay harassment and the safety and well-being of sexual minority students. Seattle, WA: Safe Schools Coalition of Washington


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