Some activists claim that issues of confused sexual identity are driving the documented increase in teen suicide attempts. The latest issue of a publication from the Journal of the American Medical Association, Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine (APAM), June 4, 2007 begs to differ.
Research from Columbia University Medical Center, published in APAM, cites different reasons for girls’ and boys’ suicides. The researchers collected data from over 8,000 students in New York City high schools in 2005. For females, recent dating violence is a primary cause of attempted suicide. For teen males, a lifetime history of sexual assault is associated with suicide attempts. Dr. Elyse Olshen, lead researcher for the study, reported that girls who have been physically abused by a boyfriend are 60 percent more likely to attempt suicide than those who have not. For boys, sexual abuse over an extended period of time is more likely to be the determining factor for male teen suicide.
Both the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the National Mental Health Association (NMHA) point out that suicide rates for teens have tripled since 1960 –– making it the third leading cause of adolescent death and the second cause among college students.
The activist groups, not letting facts stand in their way, continue to claim, based on a flawed 1989 study that has been totally discredited, that 30 percent of all teens who attempt suicide are homosexuals. Instead, teen suicide reports from the major psychological and pediatric associations either do not even mention sexual identity or mention it near the bottom of a long list of other risk factors associated with teen suicide. Other teen suicide factors – family breakup through divorce, alcohol or drug abuse, and family dysfunction – are mentioned in all the major health organization publications as the main factors in teen suicide.
The American Psychiatric Association (APA) identified the strong risk factors for teen suicide as: depression, alcohol or drug abuse and aggressive, disruptive behaviors. They also mentioned family loss and instability and unplanned pregnancy. Suicidal teens, they reported, feel alone, hopeless and rejected and are especially vulnerable when they have experienced a loss, humiliation or trauma, such as poor grade, breakup with boyfriend or girlfriend, argument with parents, parental discord, separation or divorce. The APA declared that 53 percent of young people who commit suicide are substance abusers.
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