A string of recent suicides by teenagers who have been bullied because of their sexual orientation has attracted attention from the media and the nation as a whole.
According to AOL news, there were six gay teen suicides in September alone. The most publicized incident involved Tyler Clementi, a freshman at Rutgers University who committed suicide after his roommate posted a video of his sexual encounter with another man on the Internet.
Suicide is the third highest cause of death among teenagers between the ages of 15 and 24, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Gay teens are four times more likely to attempt suicide, according to the Trevor Project, a national organization that focuses on crisis and suicide prevention among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning teens.
Florida is not exempt from these striking statistics, but a new project in Manatee County’s public schools may help lessen the frequency of such incidents. More programs like it should follow.
Max Staebler, an openly gay 16-year-old student who attends Southeast High School in Manatee County, is one of 20 students nationwide who sits on the Youth Advisory Council of the Trevor Project.
According to First Coast News, Staebler is trying to bring the project to Manatee County and hopes to start a Gay Straight Alliance club in his school, which if approved, would be the first of its kind in the county’s public school system.
Staebler said he wants to implement these programs to increase awareness in middle and high schools and teach others how to intervene when friends express suicidal thoughts.
His wishes should be put into action.
The club could serve as a community for many gay teens in need of support while not only confronting their parents or friends about their sexual orientation, but also accepting themselves the way they are. It is time people realize that gays exist and deserve equal respect.
Gay teens are bullied because they are different. Yet bullies do not realize the consequences of their actions until it’s too late, when a young life may be lost.
It is important that gay and other bullied teens know how to handle themselves in such situations, as it is devastating that suicide is even considered an option. Victims have the power to come out of the closet, so they should recognize that they also have the power to deal with ignorant attackers. Hopefully, this project would help them do just that.
Zahira Babwani is a senior majoring in biomedical sciences.