Family support critical for gay youth

Feb. 15, 2012 at 12:07 AM

CHICAGO, Feb. 15 (UPI) -- Support from friends and family provides the most protection in preventing gay youth from thinking about suicide, U.S. researchers said.

Brian Mustanski, associate professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, said adolescents who know they can talk to their parents about problems and know they have friends who care about them are less likely than others to consider ending their lives.

Adolescents who feel victimized for being gay are most likely to consider killing themselves and engage in self-harm behaviors, Mustanski said.

Prior Northwestern research found about 94 percent of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youths have had at least one experience in which people said cruel things to them, spit on them, destroyed their property and threatened or assaulted them -- all related to their sexuality.

The study involved 246 Chicago-area sexual minority youth, ages 16-20 at enrollment, who were interviewed at five time points, six months apart.

"Our research shows how critical it is for these young people to have social support and for schools to have programs to reduce bullying," Mustanski said in a statement. "We believe this will help save young lives."

The findings were published in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine.

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