Sexual minority youth (SMY) are at higher risk for victimization and suicide than are heterosexual youth (HY). Relatively little research has examined which types of victimization are most closely linked to suicide, which is necessary to develop targeted prevention interventions. The present study was conducted to address this deficit.
The data come from the 2011 Chicago Youth Risk Behavior Survey (n = 1,907). Structural equation modeling (SEM) in Mplus evaluated the direct, indirect, and total effects of sexual orientation on a latent indicator of suicidal ideation and behaviors via seven types of victimization. Four indicators of victimization were school-specific (e.g., harassment due to sexual orientation or gender identity (SO/GID), bullying, threatened or injured with a weapon, and skipping school due to safety concerns), and three indicators assessed other types of victimization (e.g., electronic bullying, intimate partner violence, and sexual abuse).
Thirteen percent of youth were classified as SMY. Significantly more SMY than HY reported suicidal ideation (27.95% vs. 13.64%), a suicide plan (22.78% vs. 12.36%), and at least one suicide attempt (29.92% vs. 12.43%) in the past year (all P < .001). A greater percentage of SMY reported SO/GID-related harassment, skipping school, electronic bullying, and sexual abuse. Sexual orientation was not directly related to suicidal ideation and behaviors in SEM. Rather, SMY's elevated risk of suicidality functioned indirectly through two forms of school-based victimization: being threatened or injured with a weapon (B = .19, SE = .09, P ≤ .05) and experiencing SO/GID-specific harassment (B = .40, SE = .15, P ≤ .01). There also was a trend for SMY to skip school as a strategy to reduce suicide risk.
Although SMY experience higher rates of victimization than do HY, school-based victimization that involves weapons or is due to one's SO/GID appear to be the most deleterious. That SMY may skip school to reduce their risk of suicidal ideation and behaviors is problematic, and schools should be encouraged to enact and enforce policies that explicitly protect SMY from victimization.