Anti-bullying laws that include sexual orientation associated with fewer suicide attempts

LOS ANGELES — 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.

While fewer youth attempted suicide in 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 U.S, 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.

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.

The findings and conclusions in this report are those of the authors and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Press release from the Williams Institute

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