When Bullying Kills: A Surge in Gay Suicides

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Tragedy has swept the United States with the recent teenage suicides linked to anti-gay harassment. Students at Rutgers University in New Jersey are currently mourning the death of Tyler Clementi; a freshman who jumped off of the George Washington Bridge on September 22 after his roommate posted a video on the internet of Tyler having a sexual encounter with a man.

Tyler Clementi’s suicide is just one of the many recent deaths due to anti-gay abuse. In Tehachapi, California, 13-year old Seth Walsh hanged himself after enduring constant bullying for being gay. At his memorial service, Seth’s grandmother commented how “The harassment and the teasing and the taunting just became too much.”

The harassment was also too much for 19-year old Raymond Chase, a student at Johnson & Wales University in Providence, Rhode Island, who hanged himself in his dorm room in September. More recently, 19-year old Zach Harrington committed suicide in Normal, Oklahoma, a week after attending a City Council meeting on September 28th where several community members made anti-gay remarks when asked to recognize October as LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender) history month.

The deaths of these teenagers, in addition to several others, have opened the nation’s eyes to the bullying that gay teens face. The latest research from the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN), an organization which works to improve school atmospheres for gay students, indicates that 90% of LGBT middle and high school students suffer verbal or physical abuse.

According to Mental Health America, a nonprofit that works to help all people live mentally healthier lives, 28% of gay students will drop out of school, which is over 3 times the national average for heterosexual students. Executive Director Shane Windmeyer of Campus Pride, an organization that works to build more LGBT-friendly campuses, commented to ABC News “[I]t is important to allow young people to come out and to find support and to realize that once you do come out you're not alone.”

Across the country, there has been an outcry for education officials to focus more on anti-bullying programs. According to the GLSEN, in a survey of 7,261 students, only 18% said their schools have comprehensive programs that address anti-gay bullying. Yet one positive finding from the survey shows that in the schools with these comprehensive programs, gay students are less likely to be bullied and more likely to report problems to school staff.

Tyler Clementi’s parents hope that their son’s death "will serve as a call for compassion, empathy and human dignity."  This call for compassion is definitely being heard as his death has promoted an ongoing national dialogue about the issue of anti-LGBT bullying.

 

Update:

Watch President Obama address the issue of gay bullying, and show his support for LGBT Americans: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=geyAFbSDPVk

 

Related Articles:

Read about gay rights issues in Uganda

 

For more information visit:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/39593311/ns/us_news-life/

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/10/04/us/04suicide.html

 

Learn more about LGBT organizations at:

The Trevor Project, a 24 hour suicide prevention helpline for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth

Human Rights Campaign

Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network

 

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