Method: The current study was a secondary data analysis of the 2017 national Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance System that surveyed adolescents in public and private schools from 9th to 12th grade (n = 14,684). The survey asked participants on their health risk behaviors, including their experiences with bullying and suicidality. Participants were asked about being bullied at school, being bullied online, feeling sad or hopeless, having considered suicide, having made a suicide plan, and having attempted suicide once or more than once. Logistic regression models were utilized to examine the strength of effects between sexual identity, bullying, and suicidality.
Results: Findings revealed positive relationships between being bullied at school and suicidality, and being bullied electronically and suicidality. Bullying and electronic bullying had similar impacts on suicidality. Sexual minority youth were at higher risk for bullying and suicidality. Bisexual identity was the strongest predictor of feeling sad or hopeless, having considered suicide, having made a suicide plan, and having attempted suicide at least once. Students identifying as gay or lesbian were the most likely to have attempted suicide four or five times.
Conclusion: Results of this study emphasize the importance of bullying prevention programs in schools across the nation to reduce its impact on mental health and suicidality. Anti-bullying campaigns and suicide prevention efforts should focus on sexual minority youth, who face social exclusion because of their sexual identity, are more susceptible to bullying, and are more likely to endorse suicidal ideations and attempt suicide more than once. Efforts to prevent bullying should target all forms of bullying, including electronic bullying. Findings also highlight the development and implementation of suicide protocols that intervene at every aspect of suicidality in schools across the nation, with increased focus on those who have been victimized by their peers because of their sexual identity. Finally, it is equally important to consider the importance of the larger school context and the need to intervene at the school level. Creating a positive and supportive school climate is a critical way to include all stakeholders and improve experiences for all students.