Gay youth are at a greater risk of suicide, depression, and self-destructive behaviours if their family reacts negatively when they come out of the closet, a new study has revealed.
Researchers at San Francisco State University found that even marginally supportive behaviour from parents toward their gay children reduced cases of drug abuse threefold, severe depression sixfold, and suicide attempts eightfold.
Caitlin Ryan, the lead researcher of the study, said that while the results are intuitive, many parents still respond in very harmful ways. Parents may have severe, negative reactions to learning about their child’s sexual orientation—such as forcing teens out of their homes, or forbidding them from associating with gay friends—in the hopes that an expression of extreme disapproval will somehow turn their kids straight. Ryan suggested that, while most parents have the very best intentions, greater education is required, and doctors should help spread that message.
Sten Vermund, a pediatrician at Vanderbilt University, agreed, saying that while many parents may have difficulty offering the support their gay children need, it’s important to try:
Someone can still be uncomfortable with their child’s sexual orientation, but if they are somewhat more accepting and do the best the can, they will do the youth a lot of good. That, to me, is an important message.
A great message, indeed, and an excellent lesson with which to start off the new year. Hope you all had a fantastic holiday, kids!