Gay Teen Suicide More Likely After Religious Counseling

by Winnie McCroy

EDGE Editor

Thursday June 26, 2014

So much for 'let go and let God.'

A new study shows that gay youth who are counseled by a religious leader were more likely to attempt suicide than those who sought no treatment at all.

Gay Star News reports that The Williams Institute has found that while youth who received therapy from a medical professional fared about the same as those who talked to no one at all, those who sought help from religious leaders were found to have a higher risk of suicide.

"The findings are troubling because seeking treatment is a recommended suicide prevention strategy and this study results show no more positive effect for people who sought treatment," said co-author Ilan Meyer, a senior scholar of public policy at the institute that released the study, "The Role of Help-Seeking in Preventing Suicide Attempts Among Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals."

"More troubling is the finding that individuals who sought religious or spiritual treatment had higher odds of later attempting suicide than those who did not seek treatment at all," added Meyer. "More studies are needed to assess the efficacy of treatment for LGB people with suicidal ideation in preventing future suicide attempts. But, even without further study, public health officials and health service providers ought to ensure that LGB individuals who seek mental health treatment, whether it is in medical or religious settings, receive competent mental health services that is relevant to their needs."

The study reinforces findings touted in the fall of 2010, when Care 2 reported that The Public Religion Research Council found that the condemnation of gay people by religious leaders contributed to their high rate of suicide.

At that time, CNN reported that two out of three Americans believed gays committed suicide at least partly because of religions messages, where most said were negative.

During that same time period, Religious Right groups were reported on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s HateWatch as saying that gay youth committed suicide because gay rights advocates eager to "recruit" them and convince them that homosexuality was normal bullied them to "prevent them from condemning homosexuality, creating an intolerable level of emotional stress, leading to tragedy."

"They’re trying to get this brainwashing into students of all ages, even starting in elementary school, and what they’re urging them to do is self-declare as homosexuals before they are mature enough to make any sort of rational decision about sexual matters," said Bryan Fischer of the American Family Association. "So I’m suggesting that adults that pressure these students to declare a disordered sexual preference when they’re too young to know better, that they share some culpability for those who take their lives."


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Winnie McCroy is the Women on the EDGE Editor, HIV/Health Editor, and Assistant Entertainment Editor for EDGE Media Network, handling all women's news, HIV health stories and theater reviews throughout the U.S. She has contributed to other publications, including The Village Voice, Gay City News, Chelsea Now and The Advocate, and lives in Brooklyn, New York.