Facts About Adolescent LGBT Bullying, Depression, And Self-Harm | Jive in the [415] Blog | Gay LGBT News Political Commentary

October 18, 2011

Facts About Adolescent LGBT Bullying, Depression, And Self-Harm

Photograph of six American school age children experiencing adolescent LGBT bullying, depression, and self-harm with text across the bottom of the image that says “Love and Support Your Kids Unconditionally”

Effective Parenting Strategies For Raising A Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Transgender Kid

by Roy Steele

It upsets me when I read a quote from a parent or family member after the death of a lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) family member, and they attribute their tragic death to bullying. While there is an epidemic of LGBT teen self-harm happening in the United States and Canada today, we cannot attribute adolescent LGBT suicide to bullying. Bullying alone does not cause a victim to harm themselves. Being bullied has a negative effect on one’s self-esteem, which could trigger a major depressive disorder. Depression is a different animal, and is always present, when someone contemplates harming themselves.

Why We Must Eradicate Bullying Now

Parents, teachers, and students are best served when we foster suicide awareness, note the correlation between bullying and depression, and acknowledge that depression is an illness that can be treated with medication and/or counseling, which produces a very high rate of success. We should encourage at-risk students to find adult advocates or mentors they can talk with. It’s our responsibility to teach them the right coping skills, and that includes knowing how to reach out to others, whether it’s for emotional support or direct help.

Too many adults view bullying as a rite of passage, and “part of growing up,” which is naive and patently untrue. If an adult minimizes the pain or struggle that a victim experiences and articulates, the child will pull away and have a deep mistrust for the adult. The lines of communication will be diminished, and the adolescent’s levels of stress and anxiety will increase. Now the perfect conditions are present to  propel the child into being depressed, and depression can lead to self-harm and other emotional issues.

Bullying can contribute to long-term emotional and mental health issues, and if  these issues develop during teenage years, they lack the maturity and coping skills to deal with emotional problems, which causes them to look elsewhere for answers. They could harm themselves, abuse drugs and narcotics, turn to alcohol, or act out in other ways that have negative consequences.

That’s why we must put our kids first and fight bullying wherever it exists.

Being bullied triggers depression, and depression can lead to serious mental or physical health challenges today or in the future.

Facts You Need To Know About Bullying

The website bullyingstatistics reports these facts about bullying:
  • The intent of a bully is to cause harm. A bully is a person who does not do things by accident. The bully intends to physically or emotionally injure a person or group of people.
  • Bullying represents an imbalance of power. Typically those who engage in bully-like behaviors use their strength, popularity, or power to harm, control or manipulate others. They target those who are weaker in size or stature, or those who are defenseless and can’t defend themselves.
  • There is a pattern of bullying, and the emotional harm is caused by the repetition. These incidents are not a one-time thing. Bullies target the same person or group over and over again.
It is important for parents to discuss bullying with their children to raise awareness and teach them how to identify a bully, and to discuss strategies to avoid being bullied or assist a victim of bullying.

Ten Signs That Your Child Is Being Bullied

If you suspect that your child is being bullied, here are ten signs to look for, to assess and evaluate whether your child is a victim of bullying.
  1. Comes home with unexplained injuries or with damaged or missing clothing
  2. Has a change in eating habits
  3. Makes excuses not to go to school
  4. Has fewer friends
  5. Feels helpless
  6. Talks about suicide
  7. Avoids certain places or playing outside alone
  8. Feels like they are not good enough
  9. Has trouble sleeping
  10. Blames themselves for their problems

The Perils Of Adolescent Depression

According to the folks at teen suicide, teenage depression is often caused by hormonal, emotional, and chemical changes in the brain.
Teen depression can come on as a result of chemical changes in the brain due to stress or even to hormonal changes. No matter how teenage depression strikes, however, it is important to get help restoring the brain’s chemical balance, as prolonged depression can lead to self-destructive behaviors including risk taking, cutting, substance abuse and even suicide.
It’s smart to observe your child’s mood and conduct every day, and note any anomalies in their daily routine, eating habits, sleeping patterns, emotions, and behavior.

If your child is exhibiting two or three symptoms of depression, they might be depressed. The symptoms below are the most frequently cited factors present among teenagers suffering from depression. Remember that only a medical professional can diagnose clinical depression. If your child is reticent or uncooperative about sharing their feelings with you, make an appointment with your family doctor as soon as possible. Early intervention has the highest rate of success and it isn’t worth the risk to not take action.

Depression is a serious mental health issue that responds well to treatment. When left untreated it can lead to destructive behavior, alcohol and drug abuse, and self-harm.

Twelve Key Symptoms of Teen Depression

Observe your kids and be aware of these twelve symptoms of teen depression.
  1. Isolating and withdrawing from family and/or friends
  2. Losing interest in socializing and extracurricular activities
  3. Displaying a lack of energy and frequently feeling tired
  4. Anxiety
  5. Angry and irritable
  6. Significant weight fluctuations
  7. Sleep pattern changes
  8. Physical aches and pains or sickness, even though there is nothing physically wrong
  9. Indifferent about the future
  10. Uncharacteristic pessimism and feelings of guilt
  11. Diminishing self-esteem
  12. Feelings of sadness and hopelessness (Suicidal ideation)

Advice And Parenting Strategies

Be an active listener when you speak with your child. Casually observe their moods and behavioral patterns. Be a parent first, not a best friend, and maintain an open and loving heart and mind, and be open to speaking about sensitive issues.

When kids experience the rite of passage that we call puberty, and they begin to mature physically, it will be a confusing time in your child’s life, and it will be very challenging for their siblings and parents.

With a bit of luck and foresight, you’ve reaffirmed your love and commitment to your son or daughter, and communicated that no matter who they grow up to be (whether straight or LGBT) that you love and support them unconditionally. By making that pronouncement to your kid, you’re reducing their stress and anxiety, and providing them with a sturdy emotional foundation, which will give them the confidence to find themselves without any pressure. Plus you’ll be providing the fundamental building blocks that nourish the lives of confident, happy, and well-adjusted individuals.

Your child will be comfortable in most social settings, and you’ve armed them with the proper tools and the coping skills, to handle the academic rigor of a university education, while meeting the professional challenges that they will encounter at nearly every stage in their adult life. And that’s bloody brilliant.

straight talk in a queer world. 
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