Teen’s suicide said to be related to anti-gay bullying

Earlier today, Focus on the Family announced a remodeled Day of Truth (Day of Dialogue). Then just a few minutes ago, I read of a Middleburg, PA youth who ran in front of a truck due to his despair over being bullied. According to this local report, Brandon Bitner had endured bullying for years before walking 13 miles to Route 11 where he ran in front of a tractor-trailer.

There seems to be little doubt in the students’ minds why Bitner did what he did.

“It was because of bullying,” friend Takara Jo Folk wrote in a letter to The Daily Item.

“It was not about race, or gender, but they bullied him for his sexual preferences and the way he dressed. Which,” she said, “they wrongly accused him of.”

The local Daily Item interviewed ministers in this rural Central PA area, all looking for answers. One, Denny Mallonee, seemed to implicate families:

Mallonee said a stronger bond between kids and their parents also will help.

“If the kids can get the message that nothing beats that close family relationship and that close communication with mom and dad … we get busy with so many things that pull that family apart instead of binding it together,” he said.

Another, Karl Polm-Faudre, pointed to anti-gay bias in the church and local politics:

Polm-Faudre said in his regular clergy study group — which encompasses Episcopal, Lutheran and United Church of Christ — everyone was aware of bullying that’s present in there areas, “and these are people from Mazeppa to Lewisburg, Sunbury, Benton, Berwick …” he said.

“I think the message we would want to give is that the community needs to take stock of the anti-gay rhetoric that’s been going on, especially from some political and religious circles,” Polm-Faudre said. “Because this is giving permission for bullying, harassment and name calling.”

And then another, Rev. Julia Beall, offered a helpfuf perspective:

People will come to terms with their pain, Beall said, but to stay there, things will need to change.

“We need to embody that kindness that doesn’t tolerate this kind of hurt, in every small way we live,” Beall said, adding the culture of the church is that “we do affirm that God created us for a purpose, and respect that God created every person for an purpose because that is part of the Christian culture. … We are all loved by God, and we should love one another.”

Seems to me this is the prime dialogue we need to promote.

Print Friendly

  • David Blakeslee

    12 year old bullied child just left my office.

  • Lynn David

    http://www.chicagotribune.com/news/chi-ap-us-med-gayteens-suic,0,340534.story

    Not sure of the science…..

    CHICAGO— Suicide attempts by gay teens — and even straight kids — are more common in politically conservative areas where schools don’t have programs supporting gay rights, a study involving nearly 32,000 high school students found.

    Those factors raised the odds and were a substantial influence on suicide attempts even when known risk contributors like depression and being bullied were considered, said study author Mark Hatzenbuehler, a Columbia University psychologist and researcher.

    His study found a higher rate of suicide attempts even among kids who weren’t bullied or depressed when they lived in counties less supportive of gays and with relatively few Democrats. A high proportion of Democrats was a measure used as a proxy for a more liberal environment.

    The research focused only on the state of Oregon and created a social index to assess which outside factors might contribute to suicidal tendencies. Other teen health experts called it a powerful, novel way to evaluate a tragic social problem.

    . . . .

    The new study was published online Monday in the journal Pediatrics.

    Previous research has found disproportionately high suicide rates in gay teens. One highly publicized case involved a Rutgers University freshman who jumped off a bridge last year after classmates recorded and broadcast the 18-year-old having sex with a man.

    The study relied on teens’ self-reporting suicide attempts within the previous year. Roughly 20 percent of gay, lesbian and bisexual teens said they had made an attempt, versus 4 percent of straight kids.

    The study’s social index rated counties on five measures: prevalence of same-sex couples; registered Democratic voters; liberal views; schools with gay-straight alliances; schools with policies against bullying gay students; and schools with antidiscrimination policies that included sexual orientation.

    Gay, lesbian and bisexual teens living in counties with the lowest social index scores were 20 percent more likely to have attempted suicide than gays in counties with the highest index scores. Overall, about 25 percent of gay teens in low-scoring counties had attempted suicide, versus 20 percent of gay teens in high-scoring counties.

    Among straight teens, suicide attempts were 9 percent more common in low-scoring counties. There were 1,584 total suicide attempts — 304 of those among gays, lesbians and bisexuals.

    Hatzenbuehler said the results show that “environments that are good for gay youth are also healthy for heterosexual youth.”

    The study is based on 2006-08 surveys of 11th-graders that state health officials conducted in Oregon classrooms; Oregon voter registration statistics; Census data on same-sex couples; and public school policies on gays and bullying.

    The researchers assessed proportions of Democrats versus Republicans; there were relatively few Independents. Information on non-voters wasn’t examined.

    Zachary Toomay, a high school senior from Arroyo Grande, Calif., said the study “seems not only plausible, but it’s true.”

    The star swimmer, 18, lives in a conservative, mostly Republican county. He’s active in his school’s gay-straight alliance, and said he’d never been depressed until last year when classmates “ostracized” him for being vocal about gay rights.

    Toomay said signs of community intolerance, including bumper stickers opposing same-sex marriage, also made him feel down, and he sought guidance from a school counselor after contemplating suicide.

    Funding for the study came from the National Institutes for Health and a center for gay research at the Fenway Institute, an independent Harvard-affiliated health care and research center.

    Michael Resnick, a professor of adolescent mental health at the University of Minnesota’s medical school, said the study “certainly affirms what we’ve come to understand about children and youth in general.

    “They are both subtly and profoundly affected by what goes around them,” he said, including the social climate and perceived support.

  • ken

    I haven’t been able to read the whole article, but you can read the abstract here:

    The Social Environment and Suicide Attempts in Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Youth

    I note that one of the criteria they use is:

    (2) the proportion of registered Democrats,

    this criteria doesn’t give me a lot of confidence that the study was unbiased.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X