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Gay Adolescents, Young Adults at High Risk for Suicide, Experts Say

Photo Courtesy -- Tyler Clementi | YORK) -- Mental health experts say Rutgers University freshman Tyler Clementi, who jumped to his death last week from New York's George Washington Bridge, may have been reacting to a constellation of factors related to sexuality, public bullying and humiliation that put adolescents and young adults at a particularly high risk for suicide.

Clementi is believed to have been caught on camera during an intimate encounter with a young man in his dorm room. His roommate, 18-year-old Dharun Ravi, allegedly streamed video of the two on the Internet.

According to the 2005 Massachusetts Youth Risk Behavior Survey, teens who identify themselves as gay, lesbian or bisexual, or who report having any same-sex sexual contact, are four times more likely to have attempted suicide in the past year than their straight classmates.  The 2009 National School Climate Survey conducted by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) shows that nine out of 10 lesbian, bisexual and transgender middle and high school students report having been harassed.

The extent to which the public revelations of Clementi's sexual encounter influenced his decision to take his own life remains to be fully understood. However, his death comes on the heels of several recently publicized suicides among younger gay teens who were bullied and humiliated at school:

Seth Walsh, a 13-year-old from Tehachapi, Calif., hanged himself from a tree in his backyard. Authorities say other teens had taunted the boy for being gay. He died Tuesday afternoon after nine days on life support.

Asher Brown, 13, an eighth-grader in Houston, fatally shot himself in the head last week after enduring what his mother and stepfather said was constant harassment from four other students at his school for being gay.

Billy (William) Lucas, 15, a student at Greensburg Community High School in Greensburg, Ind., was found dead after he reportedly hanged himself in a barn at his grandmother's home last Thursday evening. Friends said the torment that Lucas endured included taunts that questioned his sexual orientation.

Copyright 2010 ABC News Radio

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