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LGBTQ Teen is Bullied on Social Media and Takes Life

Teen crying and holding a phone suffering from cyberbullying

A teenager in Tennessee died by suicide after he was outed by classmates on social media. Channing Smith of Manchester, Tennessee, fatally shot himself after he found out that his classmates shared sexually explicit messages between him and another male on social media. His brother told the media that Channing was mortified and humiliated when he found out his private messages had been shared.

His brother went on to say that he couldn’t face the idea of going to school and being laughed at, so he killed himself. Channing had been bullied in the past, as well. For example, reportedly, other kids made of him for walking and talking in what they described as being feminine.

Channing’s family and others fear the teens who posted the private messages won’t be criminally charged. Allegedly, the lead investigator in Coffee County where this occurred, said he was pushing for charges to be filed against the kids who posted the messages, but the District Attorney’s office decided not to pursue the case. Coffee County DA Craig Northcott has been the subject of media attention for anti-LGBTQ beliefs he shared in 2018 while attending a Bible conference.

The tragedy has gained national attention, and a Facebook page called “Justice for Channing” was created as a way to not only shed light on Channing’s death but also bring attention to issues facing LGBTQ youth and the links between cyberbullying and suicide.

Bullying and LGBTQ Youth

Channing’s story is unfortunately all-too-common. Bullying of LGBTQ youth in schools remains a pervasive issue. For example, according to Human Rights Watch, in many states, LGBTQ students and teachers don’t have protection from discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation.

According to the 2017 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, nationwide, more high school students in the U.S. who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual have been bullied on school property and cyberbullied in the past year than heterosexual peers. More lesbian, gay and bisexual students report not going to school because of safety concerns as well.

Lasting Effects of Cyberbullying

Whether a student identifies as LGBTQ or otherwise, there are lasting effects of cyberbullying. For example, there are links between cyberbullying and suicide, as well as teen drug use. Cyberbullying may increase the risk of developing psychosocial problems like social anxiety and depression. Cyberbullying can increase the likelihood of developing substance use disorders as well.

Effects on LGBTQ Youth

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, some lesbian, gay and bisexual youth are more likely than heterosexual peers to experience negative life and health outcomes. The CDC says that for LGBTQ youth to thrive, they need to feel as if they are safe and supported physically, socially and emotionally. A positive environment at school has been linked with decreased depression and suicidal feelings, decreased rates of substance abuse and lower unexcused school absences among LGBTQ students.

The CDC says LGBTQ youth are at greater risk of depression, suicide, sexual behaviors and substance use than their heterosexual peers. For example, almost 30% of LGB youth had attempted suicide at least once in the previous year before the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey as opposed to 6% of heterosexual young people.

According to data from the 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, adults defined as lesbian, gay or bisexual were more than twice as likely as heterosexual adults to have used any illicit drug in the past year. A separate study conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau in 2013 found that LGBT adults between the ages of 18 and 64 reported binge drinking in the past year at a higher percentage than heterosexual adults.

Parents and loved ones of LGBTQ teens should consider these statistics regarding LGBTQ youth suicide, health outcomes, and LGBTQ drug use rates. You should regularly check in with your child or loved one to see how they’re doing, and if you notice issues relating to substance use and co-occurring mental health disorders, seek help.

Next Generation Village works with LGBTQ youth to help them overcome substance use disorders and co-occurring mental health disorders in an evidence-based, compassionate environment. Contact us today to explore treatment options available to you.


Baker, KC. “Tenn. Boy, 16, Dies By Suicide After Classmates Out Him By Sharing Sexually Explicit Texts.” People, October 1, 2019. Accessed November 19, 2019.

National Institute on Drug Abuse. “Substance Use and SUDs in LGBTQ Populations.” September 2017. Accessed November 19, 2019.

Human Rights Watch. “Like Walking Through a Hailstorm: Discrimination Against LGBT Youth in Schools.” 2016. Accessed November 19, 2019. “LGBTQ Youth.” Accessed November 19, 2019.

US Represented. “The Long-Term Effects of Cyberbullying.” December 10, 2016. Accessed November 19, 2019.

CDC. “LGBT Youth.” June 21, 2017. Accessed November 19, 2019.

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