Three gay teens kill themselves every day

posted 11 August 2011

The twittersphere and blogs have been alight this week with a string of high-profile suicides by gay (or perceived to be gay) teenagers, starting with Billy Lucas, who was 15. Then there was Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old who hung himself and was taken off life support after ten days. Then Asher Brown, another 13-year-old, shot himself in the head. Then 18-year-old Tyler Clementi jumped off the George Washington Bridge after fellow students broadcast video of him having sex on the internet. And on Wednesday Raymond Chase, a 19 year old, hung himself.

Their deaths are unbearably sad, and deserve all the attention they've been getting, and all the hand-wringing about teen suicide, and gay teen suicide in particular. I encourage you to check out Dan Savage's It Gets Better project, and watch Ellen's plea to end bullying. But we need to be clear: this is not a sudden surge in gay teen suicides. This isn't even a complete list of the gay teen suicides that happened in September. For that, we'd need nearly a hundred names.

Between 4,000 and 5,000 teenagers kill themselves every year in America[1],[2]. That's between 11 and 13 teens killing themselves every single day. gay teenagers are four times more likely to commit suicide than straight teenagers, which means about 3 gay teenagers are killing themselves every day, about 95 every month[3].

So mourn these kids, all the potential they had that we've lost. But remember the scale of the problem we're dealing with: for every one of these, there are eighteen more we didn't hear about, just in September.


[3] About 26% of teen suicides are gay teens. This assumes gay teenagers are about 8% of the population, which is a very hard statistic to nail down.