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Depressed Bisexual Teens May Not Get Better, Study

Update Date: Oct 02, 2013 03:17 PM EDT

Bisexual teens may not "get better," according to a new study.

In 2010, the 'It Gets Better' Project was launched to address suicides amongst lesbian, gay and bisexual and transsexual teens by recording online reminders that their lives will improve as they leave school and develop into adults. However, a new study reveals that bisexual teens may never grow out of depression. Instead of reminders that life will get better, researchers said that a more nuanced approach to counseling might help bisexual teens.

"The [It Gets Better] campaign has helped many of the LGBT students that I work with in my clinical work," lead researcher Robert Cardom of the department of educational, school, and counseling psychology at the University of Kentucky in Lexington, said in a news release.

"It has started conversations. Our results seem to support the 'It Gets Better' campaign's claims, while also telling us that we must do better to include bisexual individuals in our efforts to support LGBT youth and adults," Cardom said.

Previous research revealed that gay and lesbian teens have more symptoms of depression than heterosexual teens. In the latest study, researchers wanted to see if depression decreased as teens aged.

The teens were divided into groups based on their self-reported sexuality. Researchers found that depression symptoms, namely thoughts of suicide, decreased from 42 percent to 12.3 percent as teens in all groups transitioned into adulthood and suicide attempts decreased from 15.9 percent to 2.9 percent.

However, the "mostly gay" and bisexual teens did not report a significant decrease in some measures of suicidal thoughts or behaviors.

Researchers say some bisexuals may struggle with depression later on because they don't feel accepted and supported in either lesbian and gay or straight communities.  Gay teens may find more support than bisexual teens from the LGBT community after coming out, which researchers say would encourage feelings of self-acceptance.

Researchers say that the struggle may last longer for bisexuals.

"Those who identify as mostly gay may be expressing an ambivalence about identifying as gay or lesbian due to living in unsupportive environments or getting messages that it's not okay to be gay or lesbian," Sharon Horne, Ph.D., a psychologist and director of training of counseling psychology, at the University of Massachusetts in Boston said in a news release. "It may take them more time to work through this ambivalence, particularly since early adulthood continues to be a time of great transition."

"Therapists must understand that the experiences of clients who identify as bisexual can be much different from the experiences of their lesbian and gay clients," said Cardom. "Without understanding the challenges related to finding acceptance and support, we can fail to assess the social support our clients are getting."

The findings are published in the Journal of Adolescent Health.

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