CHICAGO — A new study finds that it doesn’t always “get better” for LGBT teens despite the success of a campaign launched by Dan Savage in 2010.
Discrimination, harassment and assault of LGBT youths remain a problem for about a third of adolescents, the study found. And it’s often severe, ongoing and leads to lasting mental health problems such as major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), Northwestern News Center reports.
“We tend to think that society is evolving but we can’t just accept this narrative that ‘it gets better’ and think it gets better for everyone,” said Brian Mustanski, an associate professor in medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and director of the new Northwestern Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing.
Mustanski was happy to see that the majority of the 248 youths in the study (84.6 percent) experienced decreasing levels of victimization over the four years. But 10.3 percent experienced significant increases in bullying, and 5.1 percent maintained high levels of victimization over the four years. Mustanski was struck by just how severe the treatment was.
“With bullying, I think people often assume ‘that’s just kids teasing kids,’ and that’s not true,” Mustanski said. “If these incidents, which might include physical and sexual assaults, weren’t happening in schools, people would be calling the police. These are criminal offenses.”
Mustanski is the lead author of the study published in January in the American Journal of Public Health, which was innovative because it looked at not only the number of victimizations teens were experiencing but how severe they were and how they changed over time.