Feeling Like You Matter, Matters

[Content Note: Homophobia; bullying; self-harm.]

A study of Canadian high schools by University of British Columbia researchers has found that "explicit anti-homophobia interventions such as gay-straight alliances (GSAs)" reduce the risk of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts for both queer and straight/cis students, as well as lower incidences of discrimination.
"We know that LGBTQ students are at higher risk for suicide, in part because they are more often targeted for bullying and discrimination," says Elizabeth Saewyc, lead author of the study and professor with the UBC School of Nursing. "But heterosexual students can also be the target of homophobic bullying. When policies and supportive programs like GSAs are in place long enough to change the environment of the school, it's better for students' mental health, no matter what their orientation."

...The study used data from the 2008 British Columbia Adolescent Health Survey conducted by the McCreary Centre Society for grades 8 through 12, which involved 21,708 students. Participating school districts represent 92 per cent of enrolled students across the province. One in five students attended school in districts with anti-homophobic bullying policies and one in three attended schools with GSAs. Sixty per cent of students were in schools with neither.

Key findings:

In schools with gay-straight alliances implemented three or more years ago:

• The odds of homophobic discrimination and suicidal thoughts were reduced by more than half among lesbian, gay, bisexual boys and girls compared to schools with no GSA.

• There were also significantly lower odds of sexual orientation discrimination for heterosexual boys and girls.

• Heterosexual boys were half as likely to attempt suicide as those in schools without GSAs.

In schools where anti-homophobic policies have been in place for more than three years:

• The odds of suicidal thoughts and attempts for gay and bisexual boys were more than 70 per cent lower. Suicide attempts among lesbian and bisexual girls were two-thirds lower.

• Heterosexual boys had 27 per cent lower odds of suicidal thoughts than heterosexual boys in schools without such policies.
There is some data that suggests anti-bullying campaigns in schools may increase the odds of bullying by teaching kids new bullying strategies. I'm not sure how valid that is, but, even generally, I have a strong preference for visible inclusion and the demonstrable evidence of valuing marginalized students that organizations like GSAs communicate.

Telling a kid not to bully is important, but visibly communicating the humanity and value of hir classmates is at least as important.

Which, you know, often means also communicating the humanity and value of the bully to hirself.

[H/T to Iain.]

Shakesville is run as a safe space. First-time commenters: Please read Shakesville's Commenting Policy and Feminism 101 Section before commenting. We also do lots of in-thread moderation, so we ask that everyone read the entirety of any thread before commenting, to ensure compliance with any in-thread moderation. Thank you.

blog comments powered by Disqus