Unintended Benefits of Gay Straight Alliances in Schools

Alcohol and drug use among teens has been a concern for parents for many years.  There have been many programs aimed at reducing the use of these substances by teens.  We have all seen the commercials on TV and the many organizations that do good work to try and reduce teen use.  But a recent study on groups in schools that aim to counter homophobic attitudes in schools seem to have unexpected benefits.  The study, published in the Journal of Preventive Medicine, reveals that students at British Columbian high-schools that have had either anti-homophobia policies or GSAs (Gay Straight Alliances) for three or more years are less likely to abuse alcohol.  At these schools heterosexual boys and girls of any sexual orientation were less likely to abuse alcohol, get into fights with there parents about alcohol, have car accidents or have problems at school.  The presumption here that these GSA’s create an environment of inclusiveness thus reducing stress of bullying of any type and thus reducing students desire to turn to alcohol or drugs as coping mechanisms.  

high school students

UBC School of Nursing professor Elizabeth Saewyc explained “Although most people don’t think of anti-homophobia policies or gay-straight alliances as specifically being designed to address substance use…we had actually been hypothesizing that since we know that bullying is linked to a lot of negative health outcomes, that if these interventions are effective in creating more connection to school and reduced homophobia in schools, then might that actually reduce some of the use of alcohol and other drugs as coping with the stressors of being bullied and such?”

Anti-homophobia measures in schools help to reduce stress among all students thus creating a sense of inclusiveness among all students.  Since anyone can become a victim of homophobic attacks, regardless of sexual orientation, these groups help to reduce stress and create a better environment for all students.


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