School Suicide Prevention Programs for Gay Students
July 18, 1994
To the Editor:
We find that the number of teen suicides has doubled since 1981. These deaths have a tragic effect on the families involved and the community in general. They also effect teachers and students at the schools these youngsters attended. Schools are trying to do something to reduce these numbers. Teachers and administrators work to identify students who may be having problems and direct them to places where they can get help.
About a third of these suicides involve students who discover they are gay. Many school districts across the nation have programs which provide counseling and support to help their gay students adjust to their life situation.
Governor William Weld recently signed into law a bill that would require all schools is Massachusetts to provide these services for their gay students. Other states are considering similar proposals.
These programs are run according to the American Psychological Association (APA) guidelines. As we recall, in 1974 the APA dropped homosexuality from its list of disorders. The scientific and clinical evidence to that time and since indicates that sexual orientation is an inborn characteristic. Being attracted to persons of the same gender is just the way some people are.
That this is the case for these teens should be obvious. Why would a teen choose to be gay and commit suicide if he or she could simply choose to be straight and live happily ever after? To suggest that these youngsters had a choice defies all reason.
Since homosexuality is not a disorder, it cannot be cured. In fact, trying to do so can be quite harmful. The false hope that one can change one's orientation can prove devastating later when one realizes that this is impossible.
So schools which provide counseling for their gay students provide them with a better understanding of their homosexuality and help then develop the skills they need to cope with their circumstances.
It may be some time before schools here in Rhea County have counseling programs which appropriately address the needs of our gay youngsters. In the meantime, let us not be among those whose rantings and ravings against gays do great emotional harm and push the teen suicide rate even higher.
Instead, let us be like the Good Shepherd who looks after every one of His flock and provide understanding and support for our children who discover they are gay.
William J. Ware