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DALE O’LEARY LOOKS AT SUICIDE STUDIES


        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 general population.

        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 option?
 

Reference:

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. Beautrais.

Homosexuality, Psychopathology, and  Suicidality, R. Friedman.

Suicide and Sexual Orientation, G. Remafedi.

Homosexuality and Mental Illness, J. Bailey.

Original Source: Dale O'Leary (heartbeatnews@compuserve.com)


See also Dale's Disk — An HTML version of Dale O'Leary's files on issues of homosexuality and families — Material that has been prepared for those who are interested in promoting the truth about homosexuality.

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Posted 2000 01 09
Updates:
2000 10 23 (to add reference to Dale's Disk)
2001 02 01 (format changes)