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Anti-bullying laws associated with fewer suicide attempts

Sexual minority youth have a higher prevalence of bullying and attempted suicide than non-sexual minority youth.

Photo by Kirsty Lee from Unsplash.com

New research from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that anti-bullying laws that explicitly protect youth based on sexual orientation are associated with fewer suicide attempts among all youth, regardless of sexual orientation.

In addition, enumeration of sexual orientation was associated with fewer experiences of stressors, such as feeling unsafe at school and being physically forced to have sexual intercourse.

The report, “Sexual Orientation Enumeration in State Antibullying Statutes in the United States: Association with Bullying and Suicide Ideation and Attempts Among Youth” appears in LGBT Health and is co-authored by Ilan H. Meyer, Ph.D., Distinguished Senior Public Policy Scholar at the Williams Institute, Feijun Luo, Ph.D., Economist at CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, Bianca D.M. Wilson, Ph.D., Rabbi Barbara Zacky Senior Public Policy Scholar at the Williams Institute, and Deborah M. Stone, ScD, MSW, MPH, Behavioral Scientist at CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control.

It is worth noting that the study, while shedding light on the effect of anti-discrimination policies on the overall health of LGBTQIA people, was done in the US. No similar study has been done in the Philippines, where there is still no national law protecting the rights of LGBTQIA people; and with only a handful of local government units (LGUs) with anti-discrimination ordinances.

In this study, while fewer youth attempted suicide in American states with sexual orientation-inclusive anti-bullying laws, more sexual minority youth experience bullying and other stressors, and they are more likely than non-sexual minority youth to experience suicide ideation and attempts—whether or not their state has explicit sexual orientation protections.

“Enumeration of sexual orientation in state anti-bullying laws is a first step,” said lead author Ilan H. Meyer, a senior public policy scholar at the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law. “These laws are associated with fewer suicide attempts but do not eliminate disparities between sexual minority and non- sexual minority youth. Additional interventions, such as training teachers, instituting school-based support groups, and promoting social connectedness between youth and their communities may help reduce disparities in exposure to bullying and its ill effects for sexual minority youth.”

In the US, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have laws aimed at reducing bullying. Currently, 20 states and the District of Columbia have enumerated anti-bullying laws that explicitly prohibit harassment and victimization of students based on sexual orientation.

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