In follow up to my previous post about gay teen suicide risks, this article (http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2007/09/070924140326.htm) confirms that the increased risk factor extends right up into the college years. In fact, new research indicates that being victimized because of sexual orientation is a chief risk factor for suicidal behavior among gay, lesbian and bisexual college students. I know I certainly had my thoughts of suicide at times in college. I guess I was hardly alone. Here are some highlights:
The study is the first to explore the link between victimization and suicidal behavior among college students. In the course of the study, University of Washington researcher Heather Murphy also uncovered a group of students who previously had not been studied and are at increased risk for suicidal behavior. These students identified themselves as heterosexual, but also reported being attracted to people of the same sex or engaging in same-sex behavior.
This group was three times as likely as heterosexuals to have made a plan to commit suicide in the past year and six times more likely to have actually attempted suicide in the same period. Gay, lesbian and bisexual students also were at increased risk for suicidal behavior. They were twice as likely as heterosexuals to have planned and to have attempted suicide in the previous year.
"A lot of people stop thinking about sexual orientation related victimization and suicide as a problem beyond the K-12 school years," she said. "But suicide doesn't stop after high school. I thought I wouldn't find very much victimization in Seattle, and I certainly wasn't expecting these kinds of numbers." The study was provoked by a question from a 15-year-old gay male while Murphy was working on an internship as a school psychologist at a high school. The youth, who was suicidal and using drugs, asked her, "Does it get better in college"" She didn't know.
To find out Murphy recruited 528 participants -- 404 heterosexuals, 79 same-sex attracted heterosexuals, 38 gays, lesbians and bisexuals, and 7 who said they were not sure of their sexual identity. The students ranged in age from 17 to 26, with a mean age of 19, and 63 percent of them were female. "There is a lot of hype that gay kids are more suicidal," she said. "My study shows that this is not so. In my study, being victimized for being gay was the risk factor that increased suicidal- behavior risk."