Massimo Gandolfini, director of neuroscience and head of neurosurgery at the Poliambulanza Foundation in Brescia, made the comments while speaking at a meeting organized by Comitato Articolo 26, which campaigns against teaching children about gender and sexuality.
He pointed to the suicide rate in gay-friendly countries among homosexuals being high, despite those countries being more welcoming.
"It's said that suicides are higher because society isn't welcoming," he added.
"To debunk this lie, go and look at data from Belgium and Scandinavia. The incidence of suicide in these countries, which are gay-friendly, remains very high because beneath all of this is identity discomfort,” Gandolfini was quoted in L’Espresso as saying.
The professor’s statement goes wholly against a report published in 2007 by Ilga-Europe, an LGBT rights organization, which said: “Detailed research has shown that a social environment that excludes and stigmatises LGBT youth causes many of them to turn to suicide as an escape from depression, isolation and hopelessness."
Gandolfini, who also teaches neuroscience at the Catholic University of the Sacred Heart in Milan, said a person is led to suicide if they feel unhappy about their identity: “In so far as a person feels uncomfortable in themselves, it’s no longer so easy to live.”
He said it was misguided for teachers to discover the sexual orientation of a child and then permit them to be gay, based on having the freedom to choose.
“If we discover something that is called ‘identity discomfort’, the aim of the educator is not to run behind the identity discomfort,” he said, adding that the “disturbance” should be addressed.
Leading gay rights groups and politicians in Italy have, however, said it is legislation which will combat gay suicides.
Calls for stronger anti-homophobia laws were voiced following the suicide of a 14-year-old boy in 2013. The teenager threw himself from a building in Rome, leaving a note in which he drew on society’s lack of understanding over his being gay.