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Suicide Update

February 2016


Same Sex Marriage Laws Linked to Powerful Drop in Teen Suicide Rate


Living in a community that recognizes gay marriage can improve the mental health of all teens, according to a new study. State marriage equality laws enacted in the years before the 2015 Supreme Court ruling were linked to lower rates of suicide attempts among all high school students but especially among teens who identified as gay, lesbian, bisexual or unsure. Ultimately, the researchers found, for every year that same-sex marriage laws were in place, 134,000 fewer teens attempted suicide.


This is noteworthy because queer teens are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide as their straight peers. While the study doesn’t demonstrate that these laws actually caused a reduction in suicide attempts, lead study author Julia Raifman theorized that having equal protection under the law may account for much of the change.  “These are high school students so they aren’t getting married any time soon, for the most part,” said Raifman, a post-doctoral fellow at the Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, in a statement about her research.

“Still, permitting same-sex marriage reduces structural stigma associated with sexual orientation. There may be something about having equal rights ― even if they have no immediate plans to take advantage of them ― that makes students feel less stigmatized and more hopeful for the future.”  Raifman’s theory is an important measure in this new political climate. Same-sex marriage is now federal law, thanks to the 2015 Supreme Court case Obergefell v. Hodges, but there are worrying signs that Republican politicians may start to undermine the right to marriage and LGBTG protections in general, both at the state and federal levels.

Studies like this one show that equal marriage rights benefit those who want to marry someone of the same gender but also improve mental health for everyone, especially queer teens. “Policymakers need to be aware that policies on sexual minority rights can have a real effect on the mental health of adolescents,” she concluded. “The policies at the top can dictate in ways both positive and negative what happens further down.”

The link between equal marriage and teen suicide attempts.  Before 2015, only 35 states had legalized same-sex marriage. During this era, Raifman surveyed nearly 800,000 students of all sexual orientations from 1999 to 2015 about suicide attempts both before and after 32 states had legalized same-sex marriage. She also compared teen suicide attempts in states that legalized marriage to those in states that didn’t.

Before the passage of same-sex legislation, nearly 9 percent of all teens and nearly 29 percent of queer-identifying teens had attempted suicide. After states enacted same-sex marriage laws, suicide attempts dropped to 8 percent among all teens and 25 percent among queer teens. That might not seem like a lot, but based on these reductions, Raifman estimates that every year of same-sex marriage policies was linked to about 134,000 fewer teens attempting suicide.

(From Huffington Post)




Marriage Equality Linked to Drop in LGBTQ Suicide Rate


It Gets Better

Renowned columnist Dan Savage launched the It Gets Better suicide prevention project for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgendered, two-spirited, queer, and intersex youth bullied in high school and intolerant communities.


It’s hard to feel isolated in a cliquish social setting with bigots and bullies, but once you leave you can find acceptance in new communities, meet friends and lovers, and live a great life.


Dan and his partner Terry started the video series with their own stories of being bullied (“things got better the day I left high school”), and invite others to upload their own to YouTube. The It Gets Better Project now has dozens of inspiring videos about how people left behind the bigots, and are glad they didn’t give in to suicidal despair.




It Gets Better Project
President Barack Obama: It Gets Better
Broadway Sings for the Trevor Project: It Gets Better
The Trevor Project: It Gets Better
It Gets Better YouTube Channel
It Gets Better Project: Comments From MTV Logo Staff
It Gets Better Project: Comments From Jewel

Harry Potter Star Supports Trevor Project
Glee Star Supports Trevor Project
Advocate: Dan Savage Aims to Save LGBT Kids
Psych Central: It Gets Better Project
Sean Chapin Sings: It Gets Better

LGBT Youth Suicide: Give a Damn
Project For Awesome: Suicide Note (Language Warning)


LGBT Suicide: Facts and Statistics


In the United States, more than 34,000 people die by suicide each year (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, CDC 2007).


Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24-year-olds, accounting for over 12% of deaths in this age group; only accidents and homicide occur more frequently (National Adolescent Health Information 2006).


Suicide is the second leading cause of death on college campuses (CDC 2008). For every completed suicide by a young person, it is estimated that 100 to 200 attempts are made (Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey 2003).


Lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers (Massachusetts Youth Risk Survey 2007).



More than 1/3 of LGB youth report having made a suicide attempt (D’Augelli AR - Clinical Child Psychiatry and Psychology 2002)


Nearly half of young transgender people have seriously thought about taking their lives and one quarter report having made a suicide attempt (Grossman AH, D’Augelli AR - Suicide and Life Threatening Behavior 2007)


Questioning youth who are less certain of their sexual orientation report even higher levels of substance abuse and depressed thoughts than their heterosexual or openly LGBT-identified peers (Poteat VP, Aragon SR, et al – Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 2009)


LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are more than 8 times as likely to have attempted suicide than LGB peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection (Ryan C, Huebner D, et al - Peds 2009;123(1):346-352)




How to Talk About Suicide

Suicide and LGBT Populations
Suicide Prevention, Awareness & Support
Suicide Prevention Resource Center
Healthy Place: Stopping Gay Teen Suicide

Tyler Clementi Update: Father's Post Verdict Plea


March 2012


The father of Tyler Clementi, the Rutgers freshman who died by suicide in September 2010, made a statement and a plea after the verdict was delivered in the trial of Dharun Ravi. Joe Clementi spoke about “changing the values and behavior of young people in the important areas of respect, privacy, responsibility in a digital world.”  He says, When you see somebody doing something wrong, tell them, “That’s not right. Stop it.”


Here are some of his remarks: 


"The trial was painful for us, as it would be for any parent who must sit and listen to people talk about bad and inappropriate things that were done to their child. We were here every day because we wanted to be here for our son and because we believe the trial was important because it dealt with important issues for our society and for our young people today and because of worldwide media attention that was brought to it. The criminal law is important because it deals with conduct that we find so bad, that we make it a crime."


"We have come to understand that the criminal law is only one way of addressing these problems and that there are other ways that are better, particularly when it comes to changing the values and behavior of young people in the important areas of respect, privacy, responsibility in a digital world."


"As you know, our lives have taken a new turn, and we’re on a mission to address these issues in an affirmative way through the Tyler Clementi Foundation, which we have set up in memory of our son. We hope that the media attention will not fade and that positive efforts on these important issues will be acknowledged. Just a word about personal responsibility."


"To our college, high school and even middle-school youngsters, I would say this: You’re going to meet a lot of people in your lifetime. Some of these people you may not like. But just because you don’t like them, does not mean you have to work against them. When you see somebody doing something wrong, tell them, That’s not right. Stop it.  You can make the world a better place. The change you want to see in the world begins with you."




Video and Text of Tyler Clementi's Father


It Gets Better by Jay Kuo & Blair Shepard


Hey friend / When you feel like you're alone / And the world throws out a lot of hate

It's not the end / You're not out there on your own / There's still so much in life to celebrate

Just look up / Because those skies are going to clear
There so much more than just the here and now
Just look up / because a better day is here
Tomorrow feel the sunlight shining down

It gets better, better, better / The pain will let up, let up, let up
If you fall just get up, get up, get up / Because there's another way
It gets better, better, better / The world gets lighter, lighter, lighter
So be a fighter, fighter, fighter / Just live to see that day

Hey friend / We used to feel like you / No end in sight / Fearing everyday
Just defend the part of you that's true / Find yourself and you will find the way

Don't give up / Just take another look / And you can shine / It's time you took the stage
Don't give up / Because your life is like a book / All you got to do is turn the page


There are friends yet to meet / There are songs to be sung
There are beautiful sunsets / And battles are won
There's love to be found if you just stick around
Don't give up your life has just begun

It gets better, better, better / The pain will let up, let up, let up
If you fall just get up, get up, get up / Because there's another way
It gets better, better, better / The world gets lighter, lighter, lighter
So be a fighter, fighter, fighter

It gets better, better, better


Wear Purple to Support Gay Teens


October 2010


When Tammy Aaberg wears her purple T-shirt that says "End the Hate" on Wednesday, October 20, she'll be thinking of her son Justin. He killed himself after he was bullied at school for being gay.  "We are losing too many kids. This has been kept silent for too long," says Aaberg, 36, of Fridley, Minn., a Twin Cities suburb.  She is joining hundreds of thousands of young people across the USA who will be wearing purple Wednesday, October 20 to call attention to the deaths of six youths who committed suicide after they were bullied or harassed because they were gay or were thought to be gay. A Facebook page in honor of the victims shows 1.4 million people say they will take part.



One of those being remembered is Justin Aaberg, who was 15 when he hanged himself in his room July 9, 2010. His last Facebook post said, "If you really knew me, no one would like me," his mother says. Her son never told her of the emotional pain he was in, but gay people hear so many epithets and cruel remarks that they start to believe them, Aaberg says. She says the observance can go a long way to helping young gays and lesbians realize they are not alone if they see a teacher or other students wearing purple in support.  "It will make them feel better about themselves," she says.


Gay, lesbian and bisexual youth are four times as likely to attempt suicide as straight young people, says Laura McGinnis, a spokeswoman for the Trevor Project, a national organization focused on suicide prevention for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth.  She says it's unclear whether there has been an increase in suicides by gay and lesbian young people but the issue has gotten more attention. More suicides are being recognized by family, teachers and friends as being the result of bullying or harassment because of sexual orientation, she says.


Eliza Byard, executive director of the Gay, Lesbian, Straight Education Network, which works to end bullying of gay and lesbian students, says nine out of 10 LGBT young people experience physical or verbal harassment.  Joey Twomey and Jason Galisatus, 17-year-old friends from San Mateo, Calif., say they've experienced name-calling because they are gay. Both plan to wear purple on Wednesday.  Twomey says that when he goes to class at his all-boys high school, where he's the only openly gay student, he'll be looking around to see who else is wearing purple. It will be a sign of who supports him, he says.  "I'd like to see some teachers come to school in purple," he says.


Galisatus, president of the Aragon High School Gay Straight Alliance, says he can identify with the isolation and pain the suicide victims felt. Seeing a classroom full of purple would help gay students see they have allies, he says.  "It says, 'I am here for you.' "


(From Marisol Bello, USA Today)




Ladies of The View Show Support for Gay Teens on Spirit Day
It Gets Better: Theme Song for The Trevor Project
USA Today Video About "It Gets Better" Campaign
USA Today Article About TV Movie About Lesbian Teen and Her High School Prom


Gay Rutgers Student Commits Suicide


September 2010


Tyler Clementi committed suicide September 22, apparently after discovering that his Rutgers University roommate, Dharun Ravi, and friend Molly Wei, live-streamed Clementi in a sexual encounter with another male student without his knowledge, a lawyer for the Clementi family announced.  Clementi's family attorney, Paul Mainardi, said that after learning of the violation of his privacy Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge, which connects New Jersey with upper Manhattan. Clementi's car, cell phone and computer were found near the bridge and his wallet was found on a walkway on the bridge.  There was reportedly no note at the scene, but ABC News reported that Clementi left a final goodbye on his Facebook page that read "jumping off the gw bridge, sorry."  Investigators have not confirmed the suicide because no body has been found, but sources within the investigation told the Star-Ledger that witnesses say they saw him jump. 



Ravi and Wei were charged with illegally taping Clementi having sex and posting the images on the Internet, after they turned themselves in to the campus police.  According to investigators, the first incident happened Sept. 19 when Ravi set up a web cam in the room to capture Clementi and his partner after Clementi asked to have the room alone for a few hours. "Roommate asked for the room till midnight. I went into molly's room and turned on my webcam. I saw him making out with a dude. Yay," Ravi said on his Twitter page in a Sept. 19 entry posted at 6:17 p.m., according to the New Jersey Star-Ledger.  Ravi allegedly broadcast that encounter but investigators would not say what video site it was posted to.  A few days later Ravi allegedly tweeted to his 150 followers telling them to "chat" him on iChat, an instant messaging sight with live video feed, the Star-Ledger reported.  "Anyone with iChat, I dare you to video chat me between the hours of 9:30 and 12. Yes it's happening again," Ravi wrote Sept. 21.  The next day Clementi's belongings were found on the bridge. 


Steven Goldstein, chairman of the gay rights group Garden State Equality, said in a statement Wednesday that his group considers Clementi's death a hate crime.   "...We are sickened that anyone in our society, such as the students allegedly responsible for making the surreptitious video, might consider destroying others' lives as a sport," Goldstein said.  The accused were classmates at West Windsor-Plainsboro High School North in Plainsboro, N.J.  If convicted of the third degree offense of transmitting or distributing the images they could face up to five years in prison each under state law. A fourth degree conviction for collecting the images could mean up to 18 months in jail, according to the Middlesex County Prosecutor's Office.  County Prosecutor Bruce Kaplan had no immediate comment about additional charges in the wake of Clementi's death.



CBS News: Tyler Clementi Suicide
NPR News: Student's Suicide is Deadly Reminder of Intolerance
NY Times: Private Moment Made Public, Then a Fatal Jump
Huffington Post: Rutgers Student Commits Suicide


Gay Teen Kills Self After Years of Taunting

David and Amy Truong are looking for justice after their 13-year old son, Asher Brown, committed suicide in September 2010 after being relentlessly bullied at his Houston-area school.  In addition to taking on his religion and fashion sense, Brown's peers took to - you guessed it - calling him "gay." Things became so bad that Asher shot himself to death.


The Truongs say they called the school to tell officials about the bullying. The school, for its part, insists no such calls every happened, but the distraught parents aren't giving up. "I did not hallucinate phone calls to counselors and assistant principals. We have no reason to make this up. It's like they're calling us liars," said Mrs. Truong, while her husband insisted, "We want justice. The people here need to be held responsible and to be stopped. It did happen. There are witnesses everywhere."


Now, Asher's parents hope to use his death as a lesson: "Our son is just the extreme case of what happens when (someone is) just relentless," insisted Mrs. Truong, before turning her attention to the bullies, "I hope you're happy with what you've done. I hope you got what you wanted and you're just real satisfied with yourself."   And I hope the accused are apprehended and, yes, brought to justice: the tide of bullying needs to stop, period, and perpetrators need to know that their words can indeed break bones, and lives.


On a related note, the National Education Association will hold a talk called "Addressing the School Environment and LGBT Safety through Policy and Legislation." Hopefully they'll come to some definitive conclusion on how to stem bullying, and perhaps Dan Savage can help, because this rubbish needs to stop - period.

(From Andrew Belondsky / Toleroad)


Remembering Carl Walker-Hoover

On April 6, 2009, an 11-year old Massachusetts boy, Carl Walker-Hoover, took his life after enduring constant bullying, including anti-LGBT bullying. Though Carl did not identify as gay, his story is a tragic reminder that anti-LGBT bullying and harassment affects all students.

Carl Joseph Walker-Hoover, a junior at New Leadership Charter School in Springfield, hanged himself after enduring bullying at school, including daily taunts of being gay, despite his mother's weekly pleas to the school to address the problem.

Anti-Bullying Resources


The Trevor Project
Advocates for Youth
Youth Resource: Amplify Your Voice
National Coalition for Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual & Transgender Youth
National Youth Advocacy Coalition
Alabama Safe Schools Coalition
Gay/Lesbian/Straight Education Network (GLSEN)  
Parents, Families and Friends of Lesbians & Gays
Resources for LGBT Youth

SPLC: LGBT Related Legal Rights for Students

I Am Equal
Matthew's Story
PBS Frontline: Billy Jack Gaither

Remembering Lawrence King
Lawrence King: NY Times Report
Lawrence King Murder: Wikipedia Report
Hate Crimes
GLAAD: Violence And Bullies
Stop Hate Crimes
Sexual Orientation Hate Crimes & Discrimination
HRC Report: Chronology of Hate Crimes 1998-2002
HRC Report: Decade of Violence
Hate Crimes Archive
News Desk: Beating Not Considered a Hate Crime
All Things Queer: Youth Statistics
Understanding Anti-Gay Violence and Harassment in Schools



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Association for Lesbian Gay Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling of Alabama