National data suggests that LGBTQ youth are at greater risk than their peers for mental health challenges, including depression and suicide. To better understand and support the mental health of LGBTQ students in Bridgeport, Connecticut, school and community leaders collected quantitative data on the health risks for these students, conducted focus groups, shared findings with stakeholders, and conducted two regional conferences. Analysis of the Connecticut Youth Risk Behavior Survey revealed that compared to students who self-identified as heterosexual, youth who self-identified as LGBTQ:
- reported almost 2 times more bullying in the past year
- reported 1 or more past year suicide attempts, 3.5 times the rate of heterosexual students
- reported 2 times the rate of some type of past month illicit drug use
- reported 1.5 times the rate of past month alcohol use
- reported almost 2 times the rate of being kicked out or running away from home
Focus group findings revealed that:
- Few staff allies ever address gender/sexuality slurs
- Gay males have less peer acceptance than gay females
- Transgender students have the least acceptance
“It would be especially useful if middle and high school lower grade classroom staff and faculty received [gender and sexual identity awareness] training,
as this is usually the age range when students start to question their sexual or gender identity and are at higher risk of bullying from their peers.
These trainings should specifically focus on how teachers and staff can address homophobic language in the schools.”
—Findings from Bridgeport LGBTQ Focus Groups
Connecticut SS/HS Evaluation Report
The collection and sharing of specific data resulted in increased efforts to support LGBTQ students in Bridgeport schools. Specifically, schools are considering ways to respond to focus group suggestions of making Gay Straight Alliance (GSA) more visible in high schools for all grades and inclusion of GSA as a regular part of announcements. In addition, Bridgeport schools co-facilitated a workshop on student wellness at the first annual Rainbow Con Empowering and Connecting LGBTQ Diversity Conference, a youth-led conference aimed to support LGBTQ students in Connecticut. The State Education Resource Center also recently conducted its first Transgender Conference in partnership with the Commission on Human Rights and Opportunities (CHRO) and True Colors.