New Zealand Gay Youth Suicide Study by John Fenaughty
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Life on the seesaw: an assessment of suicide risk and resiliency for gay / bisexual male youth in Aotearoa / New Zealand

Abstract - Study highlights coming soon!


Abstract: While considerable research has highlighted the factors that increase lesbian, bisexual and gay (L/B/G) youth suicide risk, there has been much less emphasis on resiliency factors.  Using the existing literature and grounded theory methodology, the interaction between suicide risk and resiliency was explored in interviews with eight young gay men in Aotearoa/New Zealand. Common risk and resiliency themes emerged.  Factors that appeared to increase risk included heterosexist victimisation, rejection, social isolation, internalised homophobia, social withdrawal, depression, HIV-anxiety, and substance abuse.  Resiliency factors appeared to include positive societal acceptance, support groups, positive L/B/G media representations, social support, high self-esteem, and the availability of L/B/G role models.  These risk and resiliency factors were integrated to form the Seesaw Model of Bisexual and Gay Male Suicide.  Depending on the weight of the respective risk and resiliency factors, gay and bisexual male youth might either come-out ‘resilient’, suicide, or teeter somewhere in between. 

To assess the validity of the Seesaw model, 111 non-exclusively heterosexual male identified participants aged between 16 and 26 completed a questionnaire assessing these risk and resiliency factors.  Participants were classified into two dichotomous pairs: attempters and non-attempters, and participants who had serious thoughts of suicide/made suicide plans and those who had not.  The quantitative findings verified most factors in the original Seesaw Model, and further indicated other significant risk and resiliency factors.  An early age at disclosure of one’s non-exclusive heterosexuality, and a younger age at first consensual same gender sexual activity were found to be associated with increased suicide ideation.  Victimisation at home, as well as school was also associated with increased suicidality, while accurate sexuality information was found to be significant factor for suicide resiliency. 

The current findings indicate that L/B/G youth suicide prevention requires efforts to reduce risk and increase resiliency factors. 

Fenaughty, John J (2000). Life on the seesaw: an assessment of suicide risk and resiliency for bisexual and gay male youth in Aotearoa / New Zealand. Master's Thesis. Department of Psychology, University of Auckland, New Zealand. Available via University of Auckland Library
 
Study published as:   Fenaughty J, Harre N (2003). Life on the seesaw: a qualitative study of suicide resiliency factors for young gay men.
Journal of Homosexuality, 45(1): 1-22. PubMed Abstract