STUDY: Suicide Crisis Among Religious Gay Teens In Israel

A new study presented in Tel Aviv this week indicates a disproportionately high number of suicide attempts by gay teens in Israel, especially among those who consider themselves religious.

While 3.5% of the 1,134 respondents (637 Jews and 497 Arabs) said they had tried to take their own life, that number skyrocketed to 20% for LGBT youth—112 times the rate of the general population. But the percentage among religious Jewish gays was even higher: “This is a sector that does not get enough notice, and it is a hotbed for suicides that you later hear about after the fact,” concludes the study’s author, Dr. Chana Bar Yosef. “The suicide rate among religious homosexuals is the highest because they experience more distress when confronting their families.”

Part of Yosef’s goal was to show how many suicide attempts go unreported: Israel’s Ministry of Health bases its data on victims who have visited the emergency room or received other documented care. Yosef specifically did not include teens who attempts were reported. She says if she had, the numbers would have skewed even higher across the board.

While the official Orthodox Jewish stance on homosexuality is similar to fundamentalist Christians’ condemnation, Judaism’s larger Reformed and Conservative movements are considerably more accepting. Both have moved toward embracing LGBT clergy and same-sex marriage. HOD, a group for gay religious Jews in Israel, attempts to combat LGBT suicide “by increasing awareness of the issue in the educational and rabbinic institutions.”

In the United States, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center reports that between 30% and 40% of LGBT youth have attempted suicide at least once. Without further research its hard to say whether the difference in statistics is due to underreporting, more acceptance of gay youth or some other, undiscovered factor.

Photo: Eyes Wide Open