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

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a white background.

The authors of a US study have said that LGBT youth whose schools have Gay-Straight Alliances generally go on to enjoy better mental health and spend longer in further education.

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.”

Earlier this year, a school in Texas banned all clubs to prevent the formation of a Gay-Straight Alliance.

A school in New Mexico was also accused of implementing such a ban.