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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Suicide Draws Attention to Bullying of a Gay Teen

By Anahad O'Connor
The New York Times

Five months ago, Jamey Rodemeyer, a Buffalo junior high school student, got on his webcam and created a video urging other gay teenagers to remain hopeful in the face of bullying.
The 14-year-old spoke of coming out as bisexual and enduring taunts and slurs at school. And he described, in at times desperate tones, rejection and ridicule from other teenagers.

Jamey made the video as part of the It Gets Better project, a campaign that was started last fall to give hope to bullied gay teenagers. “All you have to do is hold your head up and you’ll go far,” he said. “Just love yourself and you’re set. … It gets better.”

But for Jamey, the struggle apparently was just too much. This week his parents announced that their son was found dead, an apparent suicide. He didn’t leave a note, but his parents said he had endured “constant taunting, from the same people over and over.” They added that his school had intervened to help, and that Jamey appeared to be benefiting from counseling.

News that a bullied teenager had succumbed to the very pressures he urged others to resist came as a shock to supporters of the It Gets Better project. And it provided a sobering reminder that bullied teenagers who appear to be adjusting may still be in trouble.

Dan Savage, the advice columnist and co-founder of It Gets Better, noted on his blog on Tuesday that Jamey’s death showed that “sometimes, the damage done by hate and by haters is simply too great.”
It sounds like Jamey had help — he was seeing a therapist and a social worker and his family was supportive — but it wasn’t enough. Whatever help Jamey was getting clearly wasn’t enough to counteract the hatred and abuse that he had endured since the fifth grade, according to reports, or Jamey’s fears of having to face down a whole new set of bullies when he started high school next year.

As suicides among lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender teenagers have gotten more attention in the past year, researchers have sought to identify the factors that play the largest role. One study published in the journal Pediatrics in May, which looked at nearly 32,000 teenagers in 34 counties across Oregon, found that gay and bisexual teenagers were significantly more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. The risk of an attempt was 20 percent greater among gay teenagers who lacked supportive social surroundings, like schools with gay-straight alliance groups or school policies that specifically protected gay, lesbian and bisexual students.

An editorial accompanying the study said the findings pointed to the need for schools to adopt policies that create “more supportive and inclusive surroundings.

“By encouraging more positive environments,” the report stated, “such policies could help reduce the risk of suicide attempts not only among LGB students, but also among heterosexual students.”

Watch Jamey’s It Gets Better video above.

The entire story was found here.

This story captured the attention of Lady Gaga, gay rights activist and a supporter of anti-bullying programs.  Lady Gaga dedicates a song to Jamey.