What Parents Should Know About Gay Bullying and Suicide

Parents can intervene and support children during trying times

Sad teen being bullied
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Information presented in this article may be triggering to some people. If you are having suicidal thoughts, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 for support and assistance from a trained counselor. If you or a loved one are in immediate danger, call 911 immediately.

For more mental health resources, see our National Helpline Database.

According to the National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2019, 39% of respondents had "seriously considered attempting suicide" in the past 12 months. One of the biggest sources of this despair is gay bullying. The disturbing prevalence of gay bullying and youth suicides may have parents worried about depression and suicidal thoughts and behaviors in children. Learn which signs to look out for and get help, if needed.

What Is Gay Bullying?

Bullying, in general, is broadly defined as being repeatedly exposed over time to the intentional negative actions of one or more people. These negative actions can take the form of insults, threats, or physical violence. Cyberbullying, when a bully harasses or threatens someone online, is also common.

Gay bullying is typically directed at individuals who identify as (or are perceived to be) part of the LGBTQ+ community. The word "gay" in this context is meant to be an umbrella term rather than describing the bullying of homosexual boys exclusively.

Some research sadly indicates that 90% of LGBTQ+ youths in school have experienced bullying or harassment based on their gender identity and/or sexual orientation. Two-thirds of LGBTQ+ students have experienced sexual harassment, such as inappropriate touching or explicit remarks).

The Effects of Gay Bullying

There is a range of consequences associated with bullying in general, which may include a negative impact on self-esteem, feelings of isolation, symptoms of depression, and suicidal thoughts or actions. Some research has suggested that the effects of bullying on LGBTQ+ youth may be complicated by additional factors.

During adolescence, children are striving to establish an identity separate from their families. A rite of passage for this time is to form romantic relationships. Unfortunately, some LGBTQ+ children do not receive needed support or approval from their peers or family to establish these relationships, and in turn a sexual identity.

A lack of social and familial support, combined with homophobic bullying, may increase the likelihood of depression and or suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

Additionally, bullied LGBTQ+ students who feel their school is less accepting of diversity and do not enjoy going to school also have higher rates of alcohol and marijuana use, as well as depressive and suicidal feelings.

However, it is important to remember that there are ways to reduce the risk of mental health issues. Family support, positive peer relationships, and an inclusive school environment can mitigate the effects of bullying.

What Can Parents Do?

While knowing that your child is being bullied can leave you feeling helpless, there are a few essential things that a parent can do to help their child:

  • Support Your Child. As mentioned earlier, LGBTQ+ youth with supportive parents are less likely to experience severe negative impacts from bullying. In general, children with family and social support are less likely to feel isolated and lonely. Speak to your child about their feelings, and verbalize that you are behind them all the way.
  • Intervene Productively. Address LGBTQ+ bullying in a productive way. This means reaching out to community resources for help. You may want to alert your child's teacher or school counselor to the situation. If you feel the school has not adequately addressed the bullying, you may want to bring the issue to the attention of the superintendent or your state's department of education office.
  • Have Your Child Assessed and Treated for Depression. Symptoms like academic decline, loss of interest in areas of former interest, social withdrawal, changes in sleep and appetite, unexplained/vague physical symptoms, or unexplained excessive crying may be symptoms of depression. If you think that your child is depressed or suicidal, have them assessed by their pediatrician or other mental healthcare provider. Treatment is the best option for recovery.
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Article Sources
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