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Teen Health

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LGBT Teens and Stress

For lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender teens, stress is common. But it doesn’t have to be.

Greater Risk of Unhealthy Behaviors continued...

Many smaller studies have reported similar rates of risky behaviors among gay teens, but the CDC report was the first to do so on such a large scale. It looked at teens from seven states -- Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin - and from six large urban school districts, including San Francisco, Boston, Chicago, and New York.

Gay teens were more likely than hetero teens to participate in seven out of the 10 categories of risky behavior that the CDC studied.

"What was so noteworthy was that the results were so consistent across so many cities and states," Kann says. "While the results themselves were not surprising, it's concerning to see these patterns repeated at location after location."

Psychologist Anthony R. D'Augelli, PhD, who has written extensively on teen LGBT issues, says that he too was unsurprised by the report. Among LGBT teens, "there’s a higher prevalence of all kinds of risky behaviors, you name it," says D'Augelli, a professor of human development at Pennsylvania State University.

He points to missing school, which is not uncommon among teens who feel threatened and/or unwelcome. "School absences build up, then they don't do well on tests, and grades go down," he says.

Sometimes, those absences become permanent. "Some kids cope by dropping out of school and getting a GED," Menvielle says.

That does not have to be you.

Finding Support Makes All the Difference

Both Menvielle and D'Augelli stress the importance of finding a support network, whether that’s friends, family, a sympathetic teacher or guidance counselor, or the Internet.

"Kids need to feel like they are in a very supportive environment," D'Augelli says. "They should not have to feel they have to hide from themselves and from their peers and families."

Your school might already have a support network available. Gay-straight alliances (GSAs), for example, are groups that promote understanding and awareness. According to the CDC, students at schools with active GSAs are less likely to feel threatened or have suicidal thoughts.

"If there are GSAs in school, teens feel supported," Menvielle says. "Even if they don't use them, knowing they exist is important. If kids do not experience support, they are going to be at higher risk for a variety of things, including suicide and depression."

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