The association between supportive high school environments and depressive symptoms and suicidality among sexual minority students.
Published on May 3, 2016in Journal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
· DOI :10.1080/15374416.2014.958842
The purpose of this study was to determine if sexual minority students in supportive school environments experienced fewer depressive symptoms and lower rates of suicide ideation, plans and attempts (“suicidality”) than sexual minority students in less supportive school environments. In 2007, a nationally representative sample (N = 9,056) of students from 96 high schools in New Zealand used Internet tablets to complete a health and well-being survey that included questions on sexual attractions, depressive symptoms, and suicidality. Students reported their experience of supportive environments at school and gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender (GLBT) bullying, and these items were aggregated to the school level. Teachers (n = 2,901) from participating schools completed questionnaires on aspects of school climate, which included how supportive their schools were toward sexual minority students. Multilevel models were used to estimate school effects on depressive symptoms and suicidality controlling for background characteristics of students. Sexual minority students were more likely to report higher levels of depressive symptoms and suicidality than their opposite-sex attracted peers (p < .001). Teacher reports of more supportive school environments for GLBT students were associated with fewer depressive symptoms among male sexual minority students (p = .006) but not for female sexual minority students (p = .09). Likewise in schools where students reported a more supportive school environment, male sexual minority students reported fewer depressive symptoms (p = .006) and less suicidality (p < .001) than in schools where students reported less favorable school climates. These results suggest that schools play an important role in providing safe and supportive environments for male sexual minority students.