LGBTQ kids are at a greater risk for bullying and suicide but a new study determines that they are also more likely to engage in unhealthy behavior. “One of the first and largest national studies of the behaviors of American high school students,” according to US News discovered that rates of smoking, drinking, drug use, risky sexual behavior, and violence were higher in LGBTQ kids than their straight counterparts. The findings highlight well the ways in which the needs of queer youth, whether it be sex education or harassment, should be addressed.
Howell Wechsler, director of CDC’s Division of Adolescent and School Health (DASH), said in an agency news release that:
“This report should be a wake-up call for families, schools, and communities that we need to do a much better job of supporting these young people. Any effort to promote adolescent health and safety must take into account the additional stressors these youth experience because of their sexual orientation, such as stigma, discrimination and victimization…We are very concerned that these students face such dramatic disparities for so many different health risks.”
What’s particularly relevant about this study is that it also took into account rates of absenteeism due to fears of violence — a very important factor when considering truancy and scholastic performance. The idea that LGBTQ kids might not feel safe enough to attend school could impact everything from self-esteem to academic performance. Laura Kann, chief of the Surveillance and Evaluation Research Branch at DASH, said in the news release that in order for queer students to “thrive,” it’s truly on the adults to stand up against violence, bullying, establish an etiquette that is respectful of all students.
Needless to say, it’s also on the parents to establish a loving and supporting home — especially in communities where the school and the administration are determined to stay on the wrong side of history. Creating a refuge for your teen from the antagonism of an uncooperative school could very well make all the difference when it comes to instilling self-worth and understanding the risks that they face.