BY Advocate Contributors
September 10 2009 1:55 PM ET
When two 11-year-old boys died by suicide in April of this year after enduring relentless antigay bullying at their separate schools, shocked citizens across the country were forced to come to terms with an uncomfortable but blatant epidemic. The hallways of schools, homes, churches, and other places where all young people should be able to safely learn and grow are plagued with its tragic prevalence. Youths who identify as or are perceived to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning struggle with depression and thoughts of suicide at a disproportionately high rate as a result of the increased risk factors sexual minorities face.
A new study released in August by the UCLA School of Public Health found that LGBT people are twice as likely as heterosexual men and women to seek help from mental health professionals. This recently revealed conclusion perfectly illustrates the already often-noted statistic determined by a Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey published in 2007: LGBTQ youths are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers -- a fact we’re all too familiar with at the Trevor Project. Perhaps more off-putting than this distressing statistic is that only 14 states even bother to collect sexual orientation data in their Youth Risk Behavior Surveys. The remaining 72% of states ignore the opportunity to obtain vital information about a subculture of young people who are already all too often left without the support networks and resources they desperately need. As disheartening stories such as Carl Walker-Hoover’s and Jaheem Herrera’s (the two 11-year-old boys) surface more frequently, the harsh realities force us to address the preventable nature of these tragedies.