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The bluer the Oregon county, the lower the gay-teen suicide rate

Crowds march along Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood in the 40th LA Pride parade in 2010

In a newly released study primarily focused on gay-teen suicide rates in Oregon, some interesting details were discovered. The numbers of suicide attempts by gay teens went down by 20% in counties whose schools had anti-bullying, anti-discrimination policies and/or a Gay-Straight Alliance. The suicide rate was also lower when the proportion of Democrats was higher in the county.

A community that was supportive of gay teens not only curbed suicide among gays, the study found, but also lowered the rate of suicide attempts by heterosexual students by 9%.

Researchers led by Mark Hatzenbuehler looked at five aspects of the social environment surrounding gay, lesbian and bisexual youth on a countywide level: the proportion of schools with anti-bullying policies specifically protecting these students; the proportion of schools with a Gay-Straight Alliance; the proportion of schools with anti-discrimination policies that included sexual orientation; the proportion of same-sex couples; and the proportion of Democrats in the county. Then they rated each of Oregon's 34 counties based on the results of those findings.

The study found that a more supportive social environment was associated with 20% fewer suicide attempts than an unsupportive environment. A supportive environment was also associated with a 9% lower rate of attempted suicide among heterosexual students.

"That suggest that when you create environments supportive for lesbian, gay and bisexual youths, it creates a healthier environment for all youths," Hatzenbuehler told Oregon Live.

Of the 1,400 of teens surveyed, 4% to 5% identified themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual. Of those students, nearly 22 out of every 100 said they had attempted suicide in the last year. Only 4% of kids who identified themselves as heterosexual said they had attempted suicide.

"Regardless of your views, our data suggest that the inclusion of Gay-Straight Alliances and anti-discrimination programs can have really important mental-health outcomes for our youths," Hatzenbuehler told CBS News. "This is a road map to how we can begin to reduce teen suicide."

Hatzenbuehler studied children in Oregon -- through responses from nearly 32,000 11th-graders in 2006, 2007 and 2008 -- because it is the only state that tracks sexual orientation and suicide attempts in enough detail to compare social factors.

Note: Andrew Malcolm is on vacation.


Editorial: Fighting gay bullying - The only 'agenda' is respect

Conservative lawmaker comes out of the closet. Is it really a big deal?

-- Tony Pierce

Photo: Crowds march along Santa Monica Boulevard in West Hollywood in the 40th LA Pride parade in 2010. Credit: Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times


Comments () | Archives (10)

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Reads and sounds like nothing more than propaganda junk science. The media does more harm to this country when they actively promote the so-called "blue" vs "red" division. Stop this nonsense!

This is irresponsible reporting at its best. For starters, let's go back to the very basic principle of correlation not implying causation. Big fail on your end there. Your headline also implies that having a blue state is the only factor that helps 'reduce' GLBT teen suicides. Suicide is an immensely PERSONAL act, which is affected not only by larger societal factors, but personal, religious, and family ones as well. But let's just ignore that to write an attention-grabbing headline.

As a conservative who is staunchly in favor of full equality, legal protection, and marriage for GLBT people, I'm a little appalled by your continued feeble attempts to create a 'bad guy' based on party affiliation.

Listen to the bully comments promoting bully conservatism in the face of evidence. Where there are more conservatives there are more teen suicides, both gay and straight. It does not matter if correlation does not equal causation -- correlation equals a danger sign to change behaviors.

Yes suicide is personal, and conservative area kids personally do more of it. Your poison is killing your kids. There ARE BAD GUYS who drive teens to kill themselves, and they have conservative traits. Deal with that.

I don't know how familiar you guys are with Oregon, but this is a somewhat truthful correlation. The state is split right down the middle politically, quite literally. The Cascade range divides between 'red and blue', and it makes for a great study on different topics.

Glad to see people are preaching charity to the sick. But if you want to really take out the suicide rate, how about teaching them the correct use of their bodies are. Then help them sort out their confusions.... Then you could have healthy sane teenagers, rather than confused, falsely independent, sex crazed teenagers. This is our future..... Wow, really?

Disbelief: The Republican party has done a fine enough job of casting themselves as the bad guys, most Republican-affiliated politicians are staunchly against anything with the word "gay" attached to it, and they vocalize that constantly. I don't think the intent of the article was to stereotype all Republicans, but you MUST admit that your party, on a very general level, is extremely vocal about how much they hate anything that even remotely approaches treating gays and lesbians as social equals.

Inflammatory headline aside. The article is simply reporting what appears in the April 18 issue of Pediatrics. It does seem pretty straight forward. Less hate results in fewer suicides. I am not sure how you can be against less dead kids.

In response to "disbelief," this writer makes a valid point that the article may be a little too general, but in fact it is an honest observation. I'm glad that "disbelief" is someone "who is staunchly in favor of full equality, legal protection, and marriage for GLBT people." But the truth is those who identify as conservative generally hold to a common set of values that have been hostile to the GLBT struggle. And that is just an honset observation.

I'm always amazed an appalled at the folks who would rather have dead children than gay children.

Of course.. And the redder the community, the highter the suicide rate.

We went to war over 3000 deaths on 9-11, and rightly so. we should do the same for those who demonize gay kids and give us a 9-11 of several thousand gay kids committing suiicde every year.

And you can bet that the worst of theHomophobes are the ones who rant about saving life. Which includes the nut cases of the Westboro baptist church.


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About the Columnist
A veteran foreign and national correspondent, Andrew Malcolm has served on the L.A. Times Editorial Board and was a Pulitzer finalist in 2004. He is the author of 10 nonfiction books and father of four. Read more.
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