It is hardly a revelation to note that back-to-school season can be fraught with negative emotions.
Whether a person is starting kindergarten or preparing for post-graduate study, standing on the precipice of a new academic year can conjure a myriad of concerns, from fears about fitting in with other students to worries about whether or not one will be able to keep up with the course material and perform to expectation.
While concerns about being accepted or performing to expectation are not to be taken lightly, they pale in comparison to the challenges faced by individuals in certain marginalized populations, such as members of the lesbian, gay, and bisexual community.
For LGB students, walking back into a classroom can be a profoundly dangerous experience. For example, according to a recent report from the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), LGB students face “substantially higher levels of physical and sexual violence and bullying” than do their heterosexual peers.
According to a CDC press release, the August 11 report, which is titled Sexual Identity, Sex of Sexual Contacts, and Health-Related Behaviors Among Students in Grades 9-12 – United States and Selected Sites, 2015, is the first nationally representative study of LGB students. As the following statistics suggest, the report paints a grim picture of life for students in this marginalized community:
- Rape: 18 percent of lesbian, gay, and bisexual students have been raped; among heterosexual students, the rate of sexual victimization is 5 percent
- Dating violence: LGB students experience dating violence at more than twice the rate that heterosexual students do
- Bullying: 34 percent of LGB students have been bullied in school, as have 19 percent of heterosexual students
- Online harassment: LGB students are twice as likely as their heterosexual peers are to be harassed online (28 percent vs. 14 percent)
Unsurprisingly, as the following data indicates, this increased risk for physical, sexual, and virtual victimization has had a dramatically negative impact on the thoughts and actions of lesbian, gay, and bisexual students:
- More than 40 percent of LGB students told CDC researchers that they have seriously considered suicide.
- 29 percent of LGB students have attempted suicide in the previous 12 months.
- 60 percent of LGB students said that pervasive sadness or hopelessness had caused them to lose interest in significant activities or events.
- More than 10 percent of LGB students told researchers that they had missed school at least once during the previous 30 days due to safety concerns.
- The rate of illegal drug abuse among LGB students is as much as 500 percent higher than among heterosexual students.
Obviously, LGB students are not the only young people to endure abuse or harassment, nor are they the only students to be at risk for absenteeism, substance abuse, or suicidal thoughts. The sad reality of adolescence is that untold numbers of young people are victimized by peers as well as by adults, and many will engage in self-defeating behaviors in the aftermath of such trauma.
But the dramatically elevated levels of violence and resultant unhealthy behaviors among LGB youth indicate that these students are particularly vulnerable. In an Aug. 11 New York Times article by Jan Hoffman, CDC official Dr. Jonathan Mermin said that he found the results of the study to be “heartbreaking.”
Dr. Elizabeth Miller, who is the chief of young adult medicine at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, concurred with Dr. Mermin and noted that the findings emphasize a need for increased visibility and support for LGB students.
“The intensity of homophobic attitudes and acceptance of gay-related victimization, as well as the ongoing silence around adolescent sexuality, marginalizes a whole group of young people,” Dr. Miller told the Times.
Without proper care, LGB students who experience continued harassment in adolescence will struggle to make a healthy and productive transition into adulthood, and many will be incapable of achieving to their greatest potential until they receive effective, comprehensive care for substance abuse, addiction, and certain co-occurring disorders.
Of course, the risks that are faced by lesbian, gay, and bisexual students are not limited to school hours. But as students return to classrooms throughout the nation, many LGB students will be forced to share spaces with others who not only wish them harm, but who have demonstrated a clear willingness to act upon their destructive impulses.
Back-to-school season should be a time of hope and promise for all students, But without proper measures to prevent further attacks, and in the absence of effective counseling to help victimized students process their trauma, many lesbian, gay, and bisexual students will be forced to endure daily abuses that can lead to lifelong – and, in some cases, life-threatening – struggles.
About Starlite Recovery Center
Housed on 55 acres of beautiful Texas hill country, Starlite Recovery Center has been providing life-changing addiction treatment for more than five decades. Today, Starlite Recovery Center is a premier provider of comprehensive services for men and women who have been struggling with a primary diagnosis of a substance use disorder as well as those who are also experiencing certain co-occurring mental health disorders.
At Starlite, our treatment philosophy is based upon the premise that addiction is a progressive and potentially fatal disorder that impacts individuals in body, mind, and spirit, and that effective treatment must address the physical, mental, and spiritual needs of each person who is receiving care. In addition to medically monitored detoxification and a comprehensive residential program, Starlite is also proud to provide a number of specialized treatment tracks, including The Freedom Addiction Program for members of the LGBTQIA community.