According to a new government study released Monday, gay, lesbian and bisexual high school students are more likely than their straight classmates to smoke, drink alcohol, or do other risky things such as drug use and attempted suicide.
“This report should be a wake-up call for families, schools and communities that we need to do a much better job of supporting these young people. Any effort to promote adolescent health and safety must take into account the additional stressors these youth experience because of their sexual orientation, such as stigma, discrimination, and victimization,” said Howell Wechsler, director of CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health.
“We are very concerned that these students face such dramatic disparities for so many different health risks,” he said.
The report represents the first time that the federal government has conducted an analysis of this magnitude across a wide array of states, large urban school districts, and risk behaviors.
WWJ Newsradio 950 spoke with Laura Hughes, executive director of the Ruth Ellis Center in Highland Park, who said the study’s findings are not surprising.
“Many face discrimination, ostracism by their families, so they don’t have positive adult role models to turn to,” she said.
Hughes believes that more people need to get involved in the issues in order to change the results of these findings.
“Schools have an incredible opportunity to intervene on young peoples’ behalf. That can start with the social worker, to the teacher to the principal, to the administrators. I mean, everyone who has contact with young people has the opportunity to really work with them,” she said.
“Start with positive adult role models … stable environments, both residential environments, school environments — all of these thing contribute to quality of life, well-being and really the ability for young people to make healthier options … Any time you work to create safe, affirming environments for young people, you also instill in them an investment in their future,” Hughes said.
The Ruth Ellis Center serves young gay and lesbian runaways and homeless.
The study was conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Researchers analyzed data from Youth Risk Behavior Surveys conducted during 2001–2009 in seven states—Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin — and six large urban school districts—Boston, Chicago, Milwaukee, New York City, San Diego, and San Francisco.
Find more information and view the report at this link.