In its October issue
Archives of General Psychiatry published two studies on the relationship between suicide
and homosexuality and three commentaries on these studies by experts in the field. In an
elegantly designed co-twin study Herrell et al found that men with same-sex partners were
6.5 times as likely as their co-twins to have attempted suicide. The higher rate was not
explained by mental health or substance abuse disorders.
The second article
reported on a New Zealand birth cohort study, which has followed 1007 individuals since
birth. Fergusson et al found that, at age 21, the 28 classified as gay, lesbian or
bisexual were significantly more likely to have had mental health problems than the 979
classed as heterosexual.
In a commentary,
J. Bailey, who has published a number of studies on homosexuality, wrote:
"Several reactions to the new studies are predictable. First, some mental health
professionals who opposed the successful 1973 referendum to remove homosexuality from
DSM-III5 will feel vindicated. Second, some social conservatives will attribute the
findings to the inevitable consequences of the choice of a homosexual lifestyle.
Third, and in stark contrast to the other 2 positions, many people will conclude
that widespread prejudice against homosexual people causes them to be unhappy or
worse, mentally ill. Commitment to any of these positions would be premature,
however, and should be discouraged. In fact, a number of potential interpretations
of the findings need to be considered, and progress toward scientific understanding will
be achieved only by eliminating competing explanations."
After looking at a number of other
explanations Bailey concludes, "It is unlikely that any one of these models will
explain all of the differences in the psychopathology between homosexual and
heterosexual people. Perhaps social ostracism causes gay men and lesbians to become
depressed, but why would it cause gay men to have eating disorders? Two things are
certain, however. First, more research is needed to understand the
fascinating and important findings of Fergusson et al and Herrell et al.
Second, it would be a shame most of all for gay men and lesbians whose mental
health is at stake if sociopolitical concerns prevented researchers from
conscientious consideration of any reasonable hypothesis."
What can we learn
from these studies? First, these studies confirm that when the general population is
studied the percentage of homosexually active or self-identified persons is low - 2.8% of
the 1007 in the New Zealand study (20 people who self-identified as gay, lesbian, or
bisexual and 8 others who reported same-sex experience after age 16). Of the 6,537 men in
the Herrell et al study only 120 reported any same gender partners (1.8%).
Second, contrary to the claims made by gay
activists, homosexually active persons as a group are not as psychological healthy as the
Even if the cause of these problems could be
proved to be societal oppression resulting in internalized homophobia as claimed by gay
activists (which is highly unlikely), the question remains: "What is the proper
response?" If homosexual attraction were an untreatable, unchangeable
condition, then treating internalized homophobia would be the only remedy, but given the
massive evidence that homosexual attraction can be prevented and in many (but admittedly
not all) cases successful treated then, given the risks associated with homosexual
attraction, shouldn't homosexually attracted persons and parents of children at risk be
informed of their options? At the least, shouldn't treating homosexuality be offered as an
Sexual Orientation and Suicidality, Archives
of General Psychiatry, Oct. 1999, Vol. 56, No. 10, pages 867 - 888. A Co-twin
Control Study in Adult Men, by R. Herrell, J. Goldberg, W. True, V. Ramakrishnan, M.
Lyons, S. Eisen, M. Tsuang.
Is Sexual Orientation Related to Mental Health
Problems and Suicidality in Young People? by D. Fergusson, L. Horwood, A.
Homosexuality, Psychopathology, and
Suicidality, R. Friedman.
Suicide and Sexual Orientation, G. Remafedi.
Homosexuality and Mental Illness, J. Bailey.
Original Source: Dale O'Leary