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Gay teens at greater risk of suicide
Irish Examiner 18/07/2007

WIDESPREAD homophobia was yesterday blamed for a “chilling” level of suicide among gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender (GLBT) teenagers.

The HSE has launched a study into GLBT suicides.

Studies in other countries show GLBT teens are up to three times more at risk of suicide than heterosexual teens.

Director of HIV strategies with the Gay and Lesbian Equality Network (GLEN), Ciaran McKinney, said suicides among gay teenagers is a matter of huge concern.

Another GLBT support-service worker in the mid-west, Vanessa Buswell, described the problem as “chilling”.

Mr McKinney said: “We are not saying that gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender people are mentally unstable.

“But stresses may lead to a higher proportion of attempted and completed suicides.”

Mr McKinney said research on teen GBLT suicide done in the North and elsewhere had shown the extent of the problem.

He said: “The US government's Gibson study concluded that there was a two to three times higher rate than all over suicides there.

There is evidence from a Northern Ireland study carried out in 2004 that many young GLBT people have personally experienced incidences of self-harm, attempted suicide and being medicated for depression.”

The study under way is being funded by the HSE's National Office For Suicide Prevention.

Research will be carried out by the Children's Research Centre at Trinity College in partnership with UCD.

GLEN will be working with Belong To, the national GLBT youth organisation during the study, which will be done online and in qualitative, one-to-one interviews.

He said the GLBT community has already been identified as a sub-population at risk of suicide.

Mr McKinney said: “We want to try and understand this issue in an Irish context.

“Most of the research has been done in other countries and we want to benchmark the Irish situation.

“It will enable us to identify the extent of the problem and provide a response to the issue of suicide among GBLT people with special emphasis on young people.”

Ms Buswell said: “The level of suicide among gay, lesbian and bisexual transgender teenagers is chilling.

The exclusion they feel leads to low self-esteem and bad mental health.

“Teenagers have enough problems without them being compounded by discrimination suffered as a result of their sexuality.”

She said that in this country a person who goes away from the norm, is seen as abnormal. Homophobia, she said, is alive and well still, unfortunately.

She did not know why this is so.

“You'd have to ask straight people,” she said.