Now it is hoped the new law will help young people who are struggling to come to terms with their sexuality.
Telegraph Health expert Max Pemberton has worked in A&E departments on and off for many years and has seen first hand the huge number of people who come to casualty after a suicide attempt. For six months he spent his time working specifically with children who attempt suicide, something he describes as ‘particularly chilling’.
Every year, 25,000 children are taken to hospital because of self-inflicted harm.
He said: “What astonished me was the number of teenagers I saw who had tried to kill themselves or harmed themselves because of their sexuality. It seemed shocking that, in the 21st century, teenagers still experienced such conflict and grief because they were gay that they felt the only option was to end their lives.”
Max believes that the new law is a small but significant step in the fight for equality. By prohibiting gay people from getting married, society was essentially branding their love as less important, less significant and less valid than heterosexual love.
This can only contribute to the feelings of alienation and inferiority many teenagers feel when coming to terms with their sexuality. Entering into adulthood and dealing with an influx of hormones is hard enough without the sense that your feelings are less valid than anyone else’s.
Studies show that half of all students who have experienced homophobic bullying have thought about killing themselves. Tragically, 20% have tried to, suggesting that gay youngsters are three times more likely to attempt suicide than other teenagers.
Max believes gay marriage is as much a public health issue as it is a matter of rights. Marriage values are thought to be important for a cohesive society; there is even evidence to suggest that married people are healthier and happier than those who aren’t.
If you are struggling to come to terms with your sexuality, speaking to a counsellor might help. You can find out more by visiting our page on Sexuality. If you are a victim of bullying, please visit our Bullying page and find out more about getting help.
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