Tag Archives: bullying

Bullying and Suicide

cmimg_74970Bullying is an extremely complicated — and emotional topic. There is some conflicting evidence out there and it is hard to figure out what is really true about bullying. This article helps us understand some of the science and research behind bullying. This includes that those who are bullied are at higher risk for mental health problems, including suicide. And, those from minority groups such as LGBTQ youth, youth with disabilities, and from racial and ethnic minority groups are more likely to be bullied. While there has been some backlash to the topic of bullying, it is important to not lose sight of the very real and horrible impact that severe and chronic bullying can have upon youth who are already made vulnerable through being part of a targeted group. Read more at Oxford Univerisity Press’s article Youth suicide and bullying: what’s the connection?

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Queer Youth & Cyberbullying: Suprising Statistics

Technology can be great and we’ve all benefited from increased contact with our loved ones.   Most of the young people I work with say they like being in touch with friends and family over the internet. Facebook, Twitter and texting are an integral part of their social lives. However, cyberbullying also means that anti-LGBTQ slurs can hurt young people at any time of the day or night in the place they should be able to feel safe — at home.  And, combine this with being closeted to parents or feeling ashamed or responsible for being bullied and you have a set up for trauma.  Although it can be hard to spot, we need to look closely for all of the places that our youth can be bullied and hurt.

CNET wrote a great piece on the cyberbullying of LGBTQ youth and the surprising statistics from a recent study:

A recent Iowa State University study surveyed 444 youth ages 11 to 22, including 350 self-identified non-heterosexual subjects and 94 people who identify sympathetically with LGBT youth, often called straight allies. The study found that 54 percent of these youths report being cyberbullied within the 30-day period prior to the survey–either about their sexual identities or for their identification with LGBT people. The next highest percentage is among females, 21 percent of whom report being cyberbullied about their gender…

Read the rest of the story here

Young, Queer and Terrorized

On Halloween in 1998 I decided not to go out to the party-in-the-streets extravaganza that is Halloween in The Castro.  It was just a few weeks after Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered in Wyoming and although I lived in San Francisco, the world no longer seemed like a safe place to be out, queer and playing on a night that is traditionally about hauntings, restless spirits and unfinished business.

I wasn’t the only person that felt this way.  In one of the “Gay Meccas” of the world, a shadow had fallen, and it wasn’t the first.  That shadow could be described as trauma — or an experience of coming in direct or indirect contact with an event that terrorizes and renders you helpless.  Judith Herman, in her highly respected book on trauma, Trauma and Recovery states that “Psychological trauma is an affliction of the powerless. At the moment of trauma, the victim is rendered helpless by overwhelming force.” Trauma is when you fear for your life and there is nothing you can do about it.  The mind’s response to trauma — anxiety, vigilance, numbing, disconnection and intrusive thoughts of the event — are the way that the mind attempts to “keep us safe” from re-experiencing the event, but never really allows us to integrate what has happened.  When this persists, it is called “post traumatic stress disorder” (PTSD).

Trauma strikes the LGBTQ community in a variety of ways.  On August 1st, two young people were murdered and about 15 others badly injured when a gunman opened fire on a group of LGBTQ youth at a Tel Aviv gay centerReports roll in of friends and family of the young people standing vigil, waiting for news of their injured loved ones.  Certainly those that were present at that attack will suffer the effects of trauma.

What of the young people who, each day they attend school, fear for physical harm and threats of physical harm because of their real or assumed sexual orientation?  GLSEN reports that 4 out of 5 gay youth experience harassment at school.

When we hear of violence against LGBTQ youth such as the murders of Angie Zapata, Lawrence King, Matthew Shepard, Sakia Gunn, and the Tel Aviv youth we can experience trauma as well.  When we’re exposed over and over to the video of the “exorcism” of a young gay man that became so physically intense that he vomited, or to pictures of the aftermath of a ant-gay murder, we can experience trauma.  Although it hasn’t happened directly to us, it is a threat to our lives.  “When,” we might wonder, “will I say the wrong thing, be in the wrong area, encounter the wrong people and be the next victim?” We are helpless to prevent this violence although many of us try by hiding ourselves: refusing to hold hands with a partner in public, not showing up to events, keeping our identity a secret, trying to dress and act in ways that are as gender-normative as we can manage. We trade ourselves for a modicum of safety.

When youth are threatened daily at school, when you avoid certain areas, are afraid to hold hands in public, or narrowly miss a bottle being thrown at you, when you hear on a regular basis of horrifying crimes against those like you, this has an impact on your health, your wellness and your life.

Hate crime is terrorism.  It is terrorism because it creates an entire class of people who live in fear.  Emotional trauma contributes to PTSD When the airwaves are full of talk of “gay marriage” (which suddenly sounds frivolous when we contemplate the deaths of young people) we might forget that acceptance of LGBTQ people is a life and death issue.  LGBTQ youth everywhere experience fear, trauma and even terror on a daily basis.  The mind’s response to that trauma is anxiety, depression, isolation, withdrawal, constriction of emotion, inability to sleep, relationship difficulty, anger and agitation, failure to attend class or missing work and at times, suicidal or self-harming behavior.

Whether we live in fear because we have seen the horrifying pictures, because our own safety is regularly threatened or even because we’re alert at all times to possible danger as a result of homophobia in our culture, terror against LGBTQ youth exacts an enormous price.  The price is our ability to be healthy and happy and worse, the lives of our young people.

If you’ve experienced or been exposed to violence or emotional trauma and experience symptoms such as flashbacks, nighmares, extreme jumpiness, emotional numbness, intrusive memories, loss of memory of the event, feeling that you will never live a normal life-span, irritability, weepiness, thoughts of suicide or self-harm, please seek professional help.  There are many effective treatments for PTSD.  Read more about PTSD here. PTSD Support Services is also a helpful resource.