Teen Suicides: What Now?



As we come to the end of a very difficult month for all of us who care about LGBT youth, the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network has received countless inquiries from members of the LGBT community asking how they can help. At the same time we’ve been asked if the recent surge in media reports of suicides is a sign of a new crisis or of media waking up to a longstanding problem. The truth is we really don’t know. What is going on is complex and there are no simple answers.

What we do know is that anti-LGBT bullying has long been a severe public health crisis, especially during the back-to-school season. The consequences of school environments where nearly nine out of 10 LGBT youth are harassed each year because of their sexual orientation have been real and severe for a very long time. (Be alert for signs of depression and suicidal ideation and provide hot line info or referrals. The Trevor Lifeline is (866) 4-U-Trevor.)

The time has come for all members of the LGBT, allied, and school communities to come together to do their part to address the culture of bullying and harassment in our nation’s schools and the hugely negative impact it has on our youth. The urgency is profound and the response must be collective.

As concerned friends, family, and community members and engaged and allied students, we must do our part to help at-risk youth now. Studies show that when a young LGBT person knows she or he has adult support — a teacher, nurse, guidance counselor, or parent — the individual is much more likely to turn to them for help when bullied or depressed. This support frees youth from feelings of isolation.