For many people, their sexual identities are something to wear proudly. For others, they can be a cause of shame, despair, and even depression. A 2009 survey reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that more than 7,000 gay, lesbian, or transgendered middle and high school students were either verbally harassed at school, felt unsafe, or had been the victims of physical violence.
Gay teens are four to five times more likely to commit suicide than straight teens. LGBT youth are also at increased risk for suicidal thoughts and behaviors, suicide attempts, and suicide. According to a study in the American Journal of Public Health. lesbian, gay, and bisexual adolescents in grades 7-12 were also found more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide than their heterosexual classmates. And over 30 percent of reported suicides committed by teens each year are by someone who is gay or lesbian.
Admitting that you're gay or coming out of the closet can be one of the most difficult experiences. However, by accepting yourself for all that you are might not only bring happiness, but can also be good for your health. The Atlantic has cited a study done at the Centre for Studies on Human Stress in Montreal with a group of straight, gay, and bisexual adults. After several visits, blood, urine, and saliva samples were taken from the subjects, and it was found that when homosexual people were out and open about their sexuality, they showed fewer signs of depression and lower cortisol levels than those who hadn't come out yet. "Coming out might only be beneficial for health when there are tolerant social policies that facilitate the disclosure process," said Robert-Paul Juster, author of the study.
Coming out to yourself is the first step. If you'd ever want someone to accept you for who you are, you have to accept yourself. "Coming out to oneself is a subjective experience of inner recognition, one that may be charged with excitement, trepidation, or both. Verbally it means putting into words previously unarticulated feelings and ideas. Psychologically, it is a recapturing of disavowed experiences. Some gay people describe a moment of coming out like a switch being turned on; for others it is a longer process," said Dr. Jack Drescher, Adjunct Clinical Assistant Professor at New York University Postdoctoral Program in Psychotherapy and Psychoanalysis.
Make sure you're comfortable and ready to come out. It's a step that should be taken when you're ready. According to the University of Illinois Counseling Center, "There is often a sense of relief and a reduction of tension when one stops trying to deny or hide such an important part of his/her life. Coming out can lead to greater freedom of self-expression, positive sense of self and more healthy and honest relationships."
The next step, which is to actually be vocal and open with your parents or adults in your life, can be both rewarding and stressful. If you feel comfortable enough to want to come out to your parents, it demonstrates a step towards self-acceptance and might foster closer parent-child relationships. "Research findings suggest that for openly gay kids, having a good relationship with parents is good for their mental health and self-esteem, and may inoculate them from suicidal feelings, substance abuse, and risky sex," Psychology Today says. Michael C. LaSala, Ph.D. from the School of Social Work at Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, notes that while there are many benefits of coming out, teens and young adults should be aware of the negative responses that they could face.
Nevertheless, LaSala recommends that teens be positive during the early stages of coming out. "In the meantime, stay optimistic and take good care of yourself-and give yourself credit for having the courage to take the risks necessary to live your life honestly and openly," he said.