The string of suicides that prompted the It Gets Better projects in the U.S. and Canada fit a pattern documented in numerous studies.

Suicide, the third leading cause of death among adolescents, is more common for bullying victims than for the general population, and members of sexual minorities are much more frequently the victims of teenage bullying than their heterosexual peers.

So it is little surprise that research suggests sexual minority youth are more likely to attempt suicide or experience suicidal thinking.

Actual or perceived sexual orientation is the number 2 reason students are bullied, according to a 2005 U.S. survey. Appearance was the number 1 reason.

Like earlier studies, 2009 surveys in Canada and the U.S. found that sexual minority youth are much more likely to be bullied than heterosexual youth.

Those surveys use the terms "LGBT" or "LGBTQ," which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer and/or questioning. Other studies have found that during adolescence there is fluidity to sexual orientation. More young people report being unsure about their sexual orientation than self-identify as members of a sexual minority.

Among the findings of the 2009 Canadian Climate Survey on Homophobia:

  • 59 per cent of LGBTQ high school students reported they were verbally harassed, compared to seven per cent of non-LGBTQ students.
  • 25 per cent of LGBTQ students indicated being physically harassed due to their sexual orientation, compared to eight per cent of non-LGBTQ students.
  • 31 per cent of LGBTQ students reported personal harassment on the internet or via text messaging, compared to eight per cent of non-LGBTQ students.
  • 73 per cent of LGBTQ students reported they felt unsafe at school, compared to 20 per cent who did not.
  • 51 per cent of LGBTQ students reported they did not feel accepted at school, compared to 19 per cent of non-LGBTQ students

2009 survey of U.S. students in Grades 6-12 also suggests being bullied at school is more likely for sexual minorities. Some key findings:

  • 85 per cent of LGBTQ students reported being verbally harassed at school in the past year because of their sexual orientation.
  • 40 per cent reported being physically harassed.
  • 19 per cent reported being physically assaulted
  • Compared to Canada, fewer of the American students, 61 per cent, reported that they felt unsafe in school because of their sexual orientation.

The U.S. data, from the National School Climate Surveys, covers the period since 1999. It shows a small decrease in the frequency of homophobic remarks by students over the period, but LGBT students' experience of physical harassment and assault remained relatively constant.

The surveys in both countries found bullying of sexual minority students is less common in schools that have an anti-bullying policy and/or have a gay-straight alliance.