A new study from researchers at Northwestern and Brown Universities found that bullying and harassment of LGBT people can have a significant impact on suicidal thoughts and self-harm for young people, particularly for those who have attempted suicide before:
The victimization of LGBT youth is widespread and has been characterized as an important but unexamined reason for higher rates of self-harm. The current study found that victimization experienced across the assessment waves prospectively predicted self-harm and suicidal ideation. Indeed, after suicide attempt history, LGBT victimization was the strongest predictor of self-harm, being associated with a 2.5-fold increased risk. Similarly, gender nonconformity was another LGBT-specific risk factor with significant effects.
The researchers pointed out to NPR that family acceptance without judgment is key to deterring suicidal thoughts. If young people are ostracized or bullied at school, they need to be able to find social support at home. The Family Acceptance Project has similarly found that there is a high correlation between family rejection and suicide attempts, as well as illegal drug use.
It’s important to point out that bullying and victimization do not directly cause suicide, but they do contribute to an individual’s depression and hopelessness, which can lead to self-destructive behaviors. Other studies have also shown there are long-term health consequences to bullying, but social support through gay-straight alliances at school can mitigate those impacts.