Montrose Counseling Center anxiously awaits the signing of two bills recently approved by the Texas Legislature that would address anti-bullying and youth suicide prevention. Governor Perry has 30 days to sign the legislation, and all signs are pointing to that happening in this month.
Various forms of the anti-bullying law have been proposed going back 15 years, and MCC commends the sponsors in the state House and Senate who finally signed off on the measure, even though it does not specifically address the struggles of GLBT teens. It does include a new definition of bullying that includes cyberbullying through social networks, email and texting. The law will require Texas school districts to implement anti-bullying policies that include counseling and procedures for reporting.
The other measure will require the Texas Department of State Health Services to “develop resources designed to prevent teen suicide, including mental health counseling, crisis prevention tools and suicide prevention education.” It also doesn’t specifically address the issues facing GLBT and Questioning youth, but MCC feels it is a step in the right direction. The new law will allow individual schools the right to opt-out of the program, and while mental health counseling is a strong part of the bill, students will not be allowed to seek counseling without a parent’s approval, and for young GLBT and Questioning youth, family acceptance is one of the hurdles that may contribute to depression and suicide attempts.
This month, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a study indicating that American GLBT teens have greater health risks in seven out of ten categories than their heterosexual peers. The study is the first of its kind and reveals increased drinking, smoking, drug use, attempts at suicide, and the victims of violence, along with higher absentee rates resulting from the fear of violence or bullying. The CDC’s Director of the Division of Adolescent and School Health echoes the opinion of Montrose Counseling Center that “stressors like social stigma, discrimination and bullying,” contribute to these problems.