Unsafe school environments could contribute to rise in attempted suicides among queer youth.
A New Centers for Disease Control and Prevention study said that safe school environments for queer youth were paramount to making sure depression, violence, and suicidal ideation didn't continue.
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A quarter of queer youth have tried to end their own lives in the past, according to new data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s youth survey that tracks trends among young generations over a 10-year time period.
The report, called the Youth Risk Behavior Survey, is an indicator of how middle-school and high-school-aged teenagers interact with their surroundings, from drug use to sexual activity. And while there are some overall good trends—risky sexual activity and drug use is down, for example—mental health issues increased across the entire group surveyed.
The most shocking numbers from the report show that queer youth were more likely than their straight peers to abuse drugs, such as prescription opioids, and were "significantly more likely to experience all forms of violence,” the report said.
Young women and queer youth also experienced higher rates of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and suicidal thoughts at “alarming rates.”
“The differences in terms of mental health, compared to their peers, are substantial,” said the report. "Close to 70% of LGBQ+ students experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness during the past year and more than 50% had poor mental health during the past 30 days. Almost 25% attempted suicide during the past year.”
One of the reasons for this increase in depression and drug use, the report said, is increased hostility toward queer people, specifically in schools. The authors of the report proposed to make educational environments safer and more accepting.
“Schools can improve students’ sense of connectedness starting with social and emotional learning programs in early grades and youth development programs in middle and high school,” the report said. “Making school environments safer and more inclusive for LGBTQ+ students…not only improves health and well-being for LGBTQ+ youth but also for their peers.”
The findings and proposals from the report outlining school interventions comes on the heels of a wave of anti-LGBTQ+ bills aimed to eliminate queer youth from public view inside schools, including in Arizona, where state GOP leaders have proposed less inclusive school policies for queer youth.
Those bills include banning the use of preferred pronouns or nicknames that are opposite the student’s gender at birth, and making it easier for parents to sue schools if they disagree with what students are taught or exposed to inside classrooms, such as queer history.
And though GOP sponsors have said multiple times in committee hearings that the purpose of the bills is to “protect” children, trans and queer people say that it has been doing the opposite.
“We’ve been saying for a while that this sort of rhetoric that the GOP has been saying is going to harm trans and queer youth,” said Xyra Flores, co-coordinator of the Queer Politics Project at Trans Queer Pueblo, a non profit dedicated to aiding queer migrants and their families. “It’s going to create isolation, and thats the underlying goals of these laws — to isolate trans and queer youth.”
Previous reporting by LOOKOUT spoke with teens who also said that they no longer feel safe in schools, and that bullying and harassment have become more commonplace in their day-to-day interactions at schools.
"In our community, we believe that what we need is care not cops,” Flores said. “We need more resources and more money to be used on providing for our community, rather than criminalizing them and saying what they can and cannot do with their own bodies.”
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