Bullying, teasing, physical assault, rape. Not all kids have the same experience in middle school and high school. When it’s name-calling and shoving on the playground, it’s easy to think “kids will be kids,” but suicide statistics paint a grim picture of kids growing up with adult-sized problems.
LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning) youth are especially high-risk for depression and anxiety. According to the National Alliance for Mental Health, “mental health conditions that effect people when they are most vulnerable” too often lead to suicide.
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month – a good time to take a look at some numbers:
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 24, according to The Trevor Project, and lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are four times as likely to attempt suicide as their heterosexual counterparts.
- A study found that half of transgender people have seriously thought about suicide; a quarter of transgender people reported having attempted suicide.
- According to the CDC, a survey from 2001-2009 determined that up to 31 percent of gay and lesbian middle school and high school students in six large urban school districts had been forced to have sex of some kind – up to 32 percent for students considered “questioning,” or exploring their sexual identity and preference.
- The likelihood of self-harm for LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) youth, according to a 2010 study published in the American Journal of Public Health, increases 2.5 times with every episode of bullying.
The rainbow in a seemingly cloudy sky is the other set of numbers that speak to what can be done about these statistics:
- Students reported fewer suicidal thoughts after three years when a school has anti-homophobic policies in place and supports gay-straight alliance programs, according to the CDC.
- LGB students with families who show low or no levels of rejecting are 8.4 times less likely to attempt suicide, according to a 2009 study published in the journal Pediatrics.
“When I say I was searching for myself, I was literally searching not only for me but for a reason to exist,” Alexis Plaza, a member of the LGBTQ community who is now a freshman at Rutgers University, said about her high school days. “I didn’t have a meaning at that time, so I thought I should drop off the face of the earth and that led me to deep anxiety and depression.”
Mythic Bridge, a nonprofit organization, uses film as a vehicle to reach LGBTQ teens, like Plaza. Formed in 2010, the organization conducts film workshops, such as the women’s workshop scheduled for Sept. 24 and 25, and in the process creates a safe space for at-risk youth.
Film is the access point to begin a conversation, explained co-founder and Columbine shooting survivor Donald J. Klein. Over a weekend, students, typically from ages 16 to 21, learn how to work in a group, write a script, build a set, work a camera — “from concept to creation.”
“It’s the mentors’ job to keep the concept manageable,” Klein said while laughing. “We’re not blowing up New York City. There’s no Godzillas or anything like that in our films.”