US study: Links between Gay-Straight Alliances and better mental health

Published: November 15, 2011

The study, published in the current issue of Applied Developmental Science, claims to be the first to show that participation in a school-based group which promotes solidarity between straight and LGBT students correlates with long-term benefits.

The report, titled High School GSAs and Young Adult Well-Being, is based on data from a Family Acceptance Project’s survey, which examined the school-related experiences of 245 LGBT young adults, aged 21 to 25.

The study said the impact of GSAs was particularly beneficial when they were seen to be effective in promoting a safer school environment.

The authors suggest schools implement other facilities in addition to GSAs, such as anti-harassment and nondiscrimination policies, and teacher training on how to intervene in cases harassment.

Co-author Russell Toomey said: “Given the recent attention to tragic deaths by suicide related to anti-LGBT school bullying over the past year, our research documents that having Gay-Straight Alliances in schools is an important way to boost mental health and academic achievement for LGBT young people.

“However, Gay-Straight Alliances should not be perceived as the only vehicle for creating safer school climates for students – clearly, our findings document that other LGBT-positive supports need to be implemented in schools for LGBT students to thrive.”

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