The myth that DADT contributes to teen suicides of LGBT youth

There is a "public service" video out that discourages bullying against LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered) kids because so many teens commit suicide.  You can see the video at HotAir.

Suicide is bad, especially for kids.  Most of us can agree teens should not be goaded into suicide.  Don't be mean.  Kermit is green.  We get it.

But you know things can never be that easy.  No, those teens are killing themselves because of policies.  What policies?  Of course, you know: Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

And which celebrity delivers that message?  Cindy McCain, wife of Senator John McCain.

"Our religious and political leaders tell LGBT youth that they have no future... They can't serve our country openly."

Not letting gays serve openly in the military is causing teens to commit suicide.  That is the message.  In the video, the celebrities spout various statistics about LBGT youth suicides to "prove" that case.  I provide here some statistics as well.

Suicide rates, per 100,000, in the US for ages 15-24 in selected years  (US Statistical Abstract, Table 122):

1950:  4.5

1960:  5.2

1970:  8.8

1980:  12.3

1990:  13.2

2000:  10.2

2006:  9.9

Per policy, gays were not allowed to serve in the US military at all, openly or not, prior to 1993.  Since then, they could serve, just not openly.  Maybe there was less bullying and teen taunting in the 50s.

What about international comparisons?  Here are the suicide rates for males in the US and in some other countries, per the World Health Organization.  Every country on the list except the US allows homosexuals to serve openly in the military, at least according to Wikipedia.

US:  17.6

Australia:  21.2

Austria:  27.3

Belgium:  29.4

Canada:  19.5

Denmark:  20.9

Finland:  34.6

France:  26.1

Germany:  20.2

New Zealand:  23.7

Norway:  19.5

Sweden:  19.7

Switzerland:  26.5

According to the Centers for Disease Control, here are the risk factors for youth suicide.
  • History of previous suicide attempts
  • Family history of suicide
  • History of depression or other mental illness
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Stressful life event or loss
  • Easy access to lethal methods
  • Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others
  • Incarceration
The CDC mentions neither sexual orientation nor bullying.  From what I know on a more personal and anecdotal level, heartbreak is a pretty big factor.

I leave it to you to wonder why this public announcement made LGBT the centerpiece of its youth suicide ad, and why DADT specifically was mentioned so prominently.  From the CDC's list, it would seem that advising kids to stay off drugs and out of jail would address the issue more directly and effectively.

There is a "public service" video out that discourages bullying against LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgendered) kids because so many teens commit suicide.  You can see the video at HotAir.

Suicide is bad, especially for kids.  Most of us can agree teens should not be goaded into suicide.  Don't be mean.  Kermit is green.  We get it.

But you know things can never be that easy.  No, those teens are killing themselves because of policies.  What policies?  Of course, you know: Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

And which celebrity delivers that message?  Cindy McCain, wife of Senator John McCain.

"Our religious and political leaders tell LGBT youth that they have no future... They can't serve our country openly."

Not letting gays serve openly in the military is causing teens to commit suicide.  That is the message.  In the video, the celebrities spout various statistics about LBGT youth suicides to "prove" that case.  I provide here some statistics as well.

Suicide rates, per 100,000, in the US for ages 15-24 in selected years  (US Statistical Abstract, Table 122):

1950:  4.5

1960:  5.2

1970:  8.8

1980:  12.3

1990:  13.2

2000:  10.2

2006:  9.9

Per policy, gays were not allowed to serve in the US military at all, openly or not, prior to 1993.  Since then, they could serve, just not openly.  Maybe there was less bullying and teen taunting in the 50s.

What about international comparisons?  Here are the suicide rates for males in the US and in some other countries, per the World Health Organization.  Every country on the list except the US allows homosexuals to serve openly in the military, at least according to Wikipedia.

US:  17.6

Australia:  21.2

Austria:  27.3

Belgium:  29.4

Canada:  19.5

Denmark:  20.9

Finland:  34.6

France:  26.1

Germany:  20.2

New Zealand:  23.7

Norway:  19.5

Sweden:  19.7

Switzerland:  26.5

According to the Centers for Disease Control, here are the risk factors for youth suicide.
  • History of previous suicide attempts
  • Family history of suicide
  • History of depression or other mental illness
  • Alcohol or drug abuse
  • Stressful life event or loss
  • Easy access to lethal methods
  • Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others
  • Incarceration
The CDC mentions neither sexual orientation nor bullying.  From what I know on a more personal and anecdotal level, heartbreak is a pretty big factor.

I leave it to you to wonder why this public announcement made LGBT the centerpiece of its youth suicide ad, and why DADT specifically was mentioned so prominently.  From the CDC's list, it would seem that advising kids to stay off drugs and out of jail would address the issue more directly and effectively.

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