CW: suicide, bullying
Jamel Myles, aged nine, came out as gay to his mother and to his peers at school. Four days later, he was found dead in his Colorado home of a suspected suicide. Bullying was believed to be a contributing factor.
Everyone who knows me knows how strongly I feel about this. Bullying needs to be taken seriously and needs to be dealt with. Interventions need to happen early, and in severe cases, police and social workers from Department of Community Services and other child protection agencies should be involved.
LGBTQ+ youth, harassment and mental health
In 2013, mental health advocacy group, Beyond Blue published a report on LGBTQ+ mental health. It stated that LGBTQ+ people experience higher rates of mental health issues than the general population In 2005, research showed that LGBTQ+ people were approximately four times more likely to experience major depression at some point. Around 80% of LGBTQ+ people reported having experienced homophobic insults in public, most of it which occurred at school.
Data from the National LGBTI Health Alliance showed concerning trends surrounding wellbeing of LGBTQ+ people. They reported that LGBTI people were five times more likely to attempt suicide and twice more likely to self – harm than non – LGBTI peers of the same age.
Supporting students within and outside the norm in discovering their sexuality
Myles realised he was gay by the time he was nine. While data (at least that I looked at) was vague, it seems that Myles’ discovery was made younger than average.
It makes me wonder, whether the social workers, counsellors, teachers and other staff knew how to support the student, including validating his identity. Would they have doubted that Myles knew his sexuality? Would that have affected the way they would’ve helped him if they were given the chance?
All school staff in primary and high schools should be aware and be prepared to help children questioning their sexuality or coming out at any age. La Trobe University study that was alluded to in the above link tobMamamia article claimed that children experience their onset ofsexual awakening from ten and fourteen. However, the fact is, some don’t fit these averages. Some people who are sixteen, seventeen or eighteen struggle with their sexuality. Some only take their same – sex crush seriously when their older. Some realise ther ‘different’ very early on.
Both of these scenarios should be accepted by teachers, school counsellors andcother staff. I think that claiming that a child either doesn’t know what they are (when they do), or labelling them when they claim they don’t know are usually counter productive.
Creating a safe environment for LGBTQ+ students
Both primary and secondary schools should have policies for LGBTQ+ inclusion. I also tyink it’s important that teachers and other staff are open about this. I find it so heartening that present and former school staff support International Day Against Homophobia, Biphobia and Transphobia (IDAHOBIT) and other LGBTI campaigns. I think it shows that LGBTQ+ youth are a little bit safer.
Teachers and support staff should openly condemn homophobia, bi – phobia, etc in their anti – bullying programs and policies. Everyone has the right to be safe and supported.
Anyone who needs help, call Lifeline: 13 11 14
Beyond Blue: 1300 224 636. Resources specifically for LGBTQ+ people are available here.
As always, feel free to add any links or numbers for services in your country in the comments.