Schools with gay-straight alliances and initiatives to reduce homophobia have fewer students — both gay and straight — who attempt suicide, according to a new study by the University of British Columbia.
Not only were the odds of homophobic discrimination and suicidal thoughts reduced by more than half among LGB students in schools with GSAs, but heterosexual boys at the same schools were also half as likely to attempt suicide, compared to their peers at schools without a GSA.
In addition, at schools where antidiscrimination policies have been in place for more than three years, gay and bisexual boys were more than 70 percent less likely to attempt suicide. The same attempts for lesbian and bisexual girls were two-thirds less likely than their peers at schools without such campaigns.
“We know that LGBTQ students are at higher risk for suicide, in part because they are more often targeted for bullying and discrimination,” says Elizabeth Saewyc, lead author of the study and professor at the UBC School of Nursing. “But heterosexual students can also be the target of homophobic bullying. When policies and supportive programs like GSAs are in place long enough to change the environment of the school, it’s better for students’ mental health, no matter what their orientation.”
The study was conducted among nearly 22,000 students across British Columbia in grades 8-12.