School's out: Homosexuality, bullying and suicide

Year: 2002

Author: Sullivan, Gerard, Gilchrist, Heidi, Howarth, Glennys

Type of paper: Abstract refereed

Suicide is now the leading cause of death by injury in Australia ahead of car accidents and homicide, and it is the largest single cause of death in Australian men. In recent years, several reports have linked homosexual orientation to youth suicide. Studies estimate nearly 30 percent of gay youths attempt suicide (Nicholas and Howard, 1998), but the complex relationship between the two has not been studied. This paper, therefore, focuses on the cultural context of suicide and asks questions about how it comes to be constructed as an option for young people experiencing harassment due to sexual orientation. The data are based primarily on interviewee responses to a scenario that describes the experiences of Chris, a young person, who confides in a teacher that s/he is considering suicide due to the marginalization s/he feels as a result of a gay identity. This paper explores the views of young people, teachers, youth counsellors, parents and community leaders about the role of school communities and key actors within them in the development of this situation and their role in overcoming it. The paper concludes with an investigation of implications for pastoral care of gay youths and professional practice in schools.