Recently, there has been heightened media attention surrounding the suicides in New Jersey, Texas, California, Indiana, and Minnesota of several youth who were known to be bullied relentlessly because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.
These horrific stories across the country reflect on school bullying culture and how it can lead to tragedy. Such cases are not new, but actually do reveal an important trend: the public is becoming more informed and in tune to the realities that adversely affect our youth. However, it is now up to the public to not just be aware, but to be active in changing this reality.
Groups like the Gay Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), and The Trevor Project have been working to educate the public on this issue, and, more importantly create ways for us to put an
end to these tragedies.
Through policy efforts to pass legislation like the Safe Schools Improvement Act (HR2262 and S3739), the Claim Your Rights campaign, designed to encourage data collection on incidents that can lead to effective laws, and grassroots programs like suicide helplines such as the Trevor Lifeline - which received more than 29,000 calls from youth looking for help in 2009 alone, safe schools educational opportunities for teachers and school personnel, and support for students themselves in Gay-Straight Alliances (GSAs) these three groups are offering a 360-degree approach changing the culture of bullying that is connected to many of these youth suicides.
The end to bullying and creating a culture of respect for all isn't a one-step or one-sided effort. It is critical that concerned friends, family and community members know they have the power to take action to help at-risk youth right now. Studies show that when a young lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) person knows there is an affirming teacher, school nurse, clergy member or parent they can trust, they are much more likely to turn to them for help when they are bullied or depressed. Similarly, when a school or community has a Gay-Straight Alliance or other affirming and accepting group, young people are less likely to feel isolated and can turn to peers and faculty advisors when they need help. Knowing the warning signs and how to help someone who is suicidal are also key to preventing a suicide crisis.
The horrible instances of school bullying that have led young people to take their own lives reflect the growing need for a change in our culture to value the differences of our youth. That cultural shift must begin now, in communities, schools, and at home by recognizing and addressing the needs of LGBTQ youth, and letting them know they are not alone. It is now up to all of us to make sure it happens.
GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network, is the leading national education organization focused on ensuring safe schools for all students. Established in 1990, GLSEN envisions a world in which every child learns to respect and accept all people, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. GLSEN seeks to develop school climates where difference is valued for the positive contribution it makes to creating a more vibrant and diverse community. For information on GLSEN's research, educational resources, public policy advocacy, student organizing programs and educator training initiatives, visit www.glsen.org.
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG) is the nation's foremost family-based organization committed to the civil rights of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people. Founded in 1973 by mothers and fathers, PFLAG has 200,000 members and supporters in more than 250 chapters throughout the United States. To learn more, please visit www.pflag.org.
ABOUT THE TREVOR PROJECT
The Trevor Project is the leading national organization focused on crisis intervention and suicide prevention efforts among LGBTQ youth. Every day, The Trevor Project saves young lives through its free and confidential lifeline, in-school workshops, educational materials, online resources and advocacy. For more information, visit www.TheTrevorProject.org.
If you or someone you know is in crisis and is considering suicide call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or the Trevor Lifeline at 1-866-488-7386.
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is the leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy, and to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide.
Warning Signs of Suicide
Risk factors for suicide – who is most likely to be at risk
What to do - Know the Facts, Recognize Imminent Dangers, Take it Seriously, Be Willing to Listen, Seek Professional Help, Follow-up
The Trevor Project is the national provider of life saving resources to LGBTQ youth and their families.
How you can help someone who is suicidal
Local and national resources
Trevor Lifeline - 24 hour hotline for youth in crisis: 1-866-488-7386
The National Association of School Psychologists represents school psychology and supports school psychologists to enhance the learning and mental health of all children and youth.
Preventing Youth Suicide: Tips for Parents and Educators
Media and Suicide
Research indicates that the way suicide is reported in the media can contribute to additional suicides and suicide attempts. The following resources provide guidelines on how to talk about the issue in an effective and responsible manner.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention - Reporting on Suicide
Suicide Prevention Resource Center - Safe Reporting on Suicide (PDF)
Dealing with Bullying and Harassment
GLSEN, The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network strives to assure that each member of every school community is valued and respected regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity/expression.
Four Steps Schools Can Take to Address Anti-LGBT Bullying and Harassment
Safe Schools Improvement Act
The current House version of the SSIA (H.R. 2262) has 120 bipartisan cosponsors, including three subcommittee leaders. Learn more about the House bill.
The current Senate version of the SSIA (S. 3739) has 12 cosponsors on the first ever version of SSIA in the Senate. Learn more about the Senate bill.