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January 2, 2009


One of the most prescient points made in the movie "Prayers For Bobby" is the importance of foreknowledge in helping a family deal with a son or daughter who comes out to them.

Reactions that imbue compassion, acceptance or even just neutrality can mean the difference between a healthy future for their child or a life of psychological problems, drug abuse or, in too many cases, tragic suicide.

"If I just hadn't said this or done that...if only I had known how to deal with it, my child would be alive today," becomes the mantra repeated too many times by too many families far too late.

What most heterosexual parents don't realize is that by the time their child comes out to them, they've already been through extreme psychological hell in trying to deal with feelings that they have ultimately come to realize they can't change. Feelings that they've been taught to believe are morally wrong and shameful. Feelings that much of society have labeled, sinful, abhorrent and an abomination against God. Feelings that have put them at the edge of reason.

According to the NPR (National Public Radio) program All Things Considered, a new study conducted by San Francisco State University's Family Acceptance Project and recently published in the journal American Academy of Pediatrics, shows how crucial a family's reaction can be.

The study found that the gay, lesbian and bisexual young adults and teens at the highest risk of attempting suicide and having some other health problems are ones who reported a high level of rejection by their families as a result of their sexual orientation.

Project Director Caitlin Ryan said, "A little bit of change in rejecting behavior, being a little bit more accepting, can make a significant difference in the child's health and mental health. Parents love their children and want the best for them. Now that we have measured all these behaviors, we can see that some of them put youth at extremely high risk and others are wellness-promoting."

"Parents thought that by trying to change them, that would make them happy. But actually it put their children at great risk," Ryan said. "When we shared that with parents, they were shocked."

The study also found that children and young adults who experienced high levels of rejection were nearly 8.5 times more likely to have attempted suicide, nearly six times more likely to report high levels of depression and almost 3.5 times more likely to use illegal drugs or engage in unprotected sex compared with adolescents whose families may have felt uncomfortable but were at least neutral or only mildly rejecting.

For more, go to: NPR.org or you can read an AP story by Lisa Leff at Yahoo News