Studies have found that gay and lesbian high school students in Connecticut are five times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual youth—at rates higher than the national average.
The Connecticut average for suicide attempts for heterosexual high schoolers was 5.5 percent. Connecticut averaged 29 percent for gay and lesbian youth, according to the Youth Risk Behavior Survey. About 19.6 percent of bisexual youths in Connecticut had attempted suicide.
A 2015 study done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) showed that the national rate of attempted suicide is four times greater for lesbian, bisexual and gay youths than their heterosexual classmates. The rate is two times greater for questioning youth. Of the heterosexual students who took the survey, 6.4 percent had reported attempting suicide at least once in the previous 12 months.
Among gay and lesbian kids, 21.3 percent reported attempting suicide; the percentage for bisexual youth was about 31.8.
Experts say youths who identify as gay or lesbian are more likely to face rejection and feel shut out from peers and family, which can lead to depression and, in some cases, suicidal thoughts.
“Not every gay or bisexual youth is at risk. The ones at the highest risk are those who have been rejected… the impact of stigma and rejection, isolation, violence, and substance abuse used for self-medication are all factors,” says Robin McHaelen, executive director of True Colors. True Colors is an organization that provides counseling for gay, lesbian and bisexual youth and focuses on ending homelessness in the community. While programs and resources do exist for these high schoolers, there’s still something missing that causes these youth to generally feel more isolated.
“There needs to be more attention paid. Adults need to manage their own biases so they aren’t passing them on to their children. We need authority to meet the needs of these kids, and we need adults to intervene,” McHaelen said.
“Adults need to do a better job at creating a world where these kids are able to thrive,” she said.
McHaelen said that kids are generally more accepting than adults when it comes to differences and change, but that he problem lies in the people influencing them–parents, teachers, politicians, and people in the media need to be more supportive of gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth in order for any progress to be made.
McHaelen said that the stigma surrounding gay and lesbian individuals makes it seem like a negative, and heterosexual kids often take offense to being called gay.
Stereotypes can put different sexualities in a bad light, which is why people who identify as gay, lesbian or bisexual are more likely to feel isolated.
“This is everybody’s problem…not just queer kids are impacted. Stigmas and negative stereotypes affect all kids.”
Natalie Wright is a student at Montville High School.