University of the Rockies is proud to share our PEAK initiative: Promoting Education, Awareness, and Knowledge. Every month, we'll highlight different causes and opportunities that reflect the values of the University. You'll also learn ways you can participate.

Opinions expressed here are those of the writers and do not necessarily reflect the views of the University.

Prevalence of Suicides among LGBT Youth

By Andrew M. Whitson
Doctorate Admissions Counselor at University of the Rockies

In the last few decades there have been many positive advances in regards to the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals across the United States of America. However, these changes have not had much of an impact on the large number of youth suicide attempts and suicides by LGBT individuals. Victimization of LGBT youth is still incredibly prevalent in schools across the nation. This victimization can lead to many negative implications including depression, substance abuse, STD risk, and suicide ideation and attempts (Russell, Ryan, Toomey, Diza & Sanchez, 2011).

Because of the pervasive constructs of gender binary (masculine/feminine), gender conformity, and the fear of anything different from the “norm,” many school environments are rampant with discrimination and prejudice against LGBT youth (Russell et. al, 2011). Many students, especially boys, feel that they need to live up to an ideal image of their gender, and when another student represents something other than that norm, they bully and victimize him. This bullying has been directly linked to many long-term mental and physical health issues including increased risk for STDs including HIV, depression, suicide ideation and attempts, and substance abuse (Russell et. al, 2011). Bullying can also lead to short-term problems like tardiness, absenteeism, delinquency, aggression, and compromised academic performance (Russell et. al, 2011).  

Many studies have shown that LGBT people are at a four times greater risk for major depression and conduct disorders than their heterosexual peers (Mustanski, Garofalo, & Emerson, 2010). Studies have also shown that some members of the LGBT community may have increased substance abuse due to the victimization they experience daily. It has been theorized that “internal and external manifestations of prejudice, victimization, and social stigma can underlie health differences” (Mustanski et. al, 2010, pg. 2426). A result of this theory would be that any marginalized population, including LGBT people, will have more mental disorders, experience social isolation, PTSD, and other potential mental and physical ramifications of the victimization (Mustanski et. al, 2010). This theory further shows the need for increased attention to the issues of bullying and prejudice that are widespread in the schools of our nation.

With this steady harassment and bullying, it is incredibly important that schools take action. In the last 20 years, many high school gay-straight alliances have been implemented in middle schools, high schools, and colleges to assist with these issues, but the issue of youth bullying and harassment, including that of LGBT students, has not seen a decrease. In fact, many believe that harassment and bullying of LGBT individuals has increased with the rise of social media, and has gotten more severe than it was decades ago (Russell et. al, 2011). Russell et. al. (2011) calls upon all schools to implement the following: “1) they have and enforce clear and inclusive antidiscrimination and anti-harassment policies that include LGBT identity and gender expression, 2) students know where to go for information and support about LGBT concerns, 3) school staff regularly intervene when bias-motivated harassment happens, 4) students have gay-straight alliances and other student-sponsored diversity clubs, and 5) LGBT issues are integrated into the curriculum” in an effort to improve the climate for LGBT students in their schools (pg. 229). These steps need to be a priority for administrators, as these students often fail and have further implications for their health, success, and livelihood. Failing to implement these ideas would underserve an already underserved population.

Although there have been many improvements nationwide in regards to LGBT rights, there is still much room for improvement. It seems that one of these major areas is in the harassment and bullying of LGBT youth in our nation’s schools. Decreasing the prevalence of bullying and harassment will decrease the amount of suicide ideation and attempts in LGBT youth as well as the many other risks associated with ongoing and repetitive harassment.  


Hispanic Heritage Month and Colorado

By Dylan Self
Military Student Advisor at University of the Rockies

As an institution of higher learning based in the front range of the Rocky Mountains, University of the Rockies is in a unique position to celebrate the contributions that Hispanic Americans have made to the history of our state, placing Colorado at the forefront of our country’s changing population. Colorado’s demographics have undergone dramatic changes as Americans moved west, and a significant number of immigrants have come here through northern migrations, creating a complimentary culture in Colorado that is a mix of old and new, urban and rural, and hometown and international. Colorado’s original constitution was written in English, German, and Spanish (Zimmer, 2012), so diversity has been a part of our culture from the beginning.

Hispanic Heritage Month begins each year on September 15, which is the anniversary of the independence of the Latin American countries Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua (“Hispanic Heritage Month,” n.d). Mexico, Chile, and Belize also celebrate their independence days during this period, and Columbus Day is on October 12 (Ibid). As such, Hispanic Heritage Month represents an important historical and cultural time for a significant and ever-growing number of Americans.

According to the 2010 census, 50.5 million people in the United States, some 16 percent of the total population, are of Hispanic or Latino origin (Ibid). This number represents an increase of 15 million people over the course of a decade, and the comparative numbers are even stronger here in Colorado.  As of 2011, 21 percent of Coloradans had Hispanic or Latino ancestry, giving Colorado the seventh-highest percentage of Hispanic population (“Demographic Profile of Hispanics in Colorado,” 2011). This population represented 2.1 percent of the total number of Hispanics in the country and placed Colorado eighth highest on the list (Ibid). Among Hispanics in our state, the Pew group estimated 47 percent of Hispanic homes spoke only English, while 53 percent spoke a language other than English (Ibid). This statistic means that as Latino populations continue to increase, educational institutions in our state, such as University of the Rockies, must adapt in order to meet the needs of their students.

In the Denver-Boulder region, the numbers were even more impressive, as our community has one of the highest Hispanic populations in the country. In terms of metropolitan regions, Denver and Boulder collectively represent the fifteenth-highest Hispanic population of any area in the country (“Hispanic Population in Select U.S. Metropolitan Areas,” 2011). With a total population estimated at 609,000 Hispanics totaling 23.2 percent of the metro population, Denver-Boulder has almost twice as many as the national average. Some 81 percent of the Hispanic population in our area is of Mexican descent, while the next-largest groups consist of Spaniards at 4 percent and Puerto Ricans at 1.5 percent (Ibid). 

Here at University of the Rockies, we strive to create an inclusive environment that reflects the diversity of our home state. According to our 2009-2011 Diversity Report, minority students made up 30 percent of all college students and 20-25 percent of psychology students. At the time the report was released, University of the Rockies was proud to say that minority students made up 44 percent of the student body, which was an increase from 26 percent before the online programs were implemented. The numbers of Hispanic students in attendance after the launch of the online programs and the addition of our School of Social, Human, and Educational Development have not been released yet, but the University’s expanding footprint in Colorado places University of the Rockies in a great position to evolve along with our communities.

Since 1990, the population of young professionals in Colorado has exploded, partly due to job creation in the fields of technology, health care, and energy. The overall population of Colorado has increased by 2 million (Tackett, 2013). Similarly, the Hispanic population in Colorado has increased by 40 percent since the year 2000 (Ibid). This data means that Hispanic heritage will increasingly become our shared heritage.


Mustanski, B. S., Garofalo, R., & Emerson, E. M. (2010). Mental health disorders, psychological distress, and suicidality in a diverse sample of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths. American Journal Of Public Health, 100(12), 2426-2432.
Russell, S. T., Ryan, C., Toomey, R. B., Diza, R. M., & Sanchez, J. (2011). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adolescent school victimization: implications for young adult health and adjustment. Journal Of School Health, 81(5), 223-230.
“Demographic Profile of Hispanics in Colorado, 2011.” (2011). Retrieved on August 13th, 2014 from
“Hispanic Heritage Month.” (N.D.). Retrieved on August 13th, 2014 from
“Hispanic Population in Select U.S. Metropolitan Areas.” (2011). Retrieved on August 13th, 2014 from
Tackett, Michael. (October 27, 2013.) “Colorado Secessionists Struggle as Trend Lifts Democratic Votes.” Retrieved on August 14th, 2014 from
Zimmer, Amy.  (June 26, 2012). Retrieved on August 13th, 2014 from

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