Suicide is a serious and preventable public health issue that has become an increasingly concerning problem, especially among young people. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 10 to 24. This reality is especially dire for LGBTQ+ youth who are facing an uphill battle for acceptance and equality.
The challenges and discrimination that LGBTQ+ individuals face is well documented. From societal stigma to hate crimes, they are subjected to various forms of discrimination and violence daily. Such experiences take a significant toll on their mental health, often leading to suicidal ideation and attempts. According to statistics, LGB (lesbian, gay, and bisexual) youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of their heterosexual counterparts. Furthermore, LGB youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth. This disparity is alarming, especially when considering that suicide attempts by LGB youth are almost five times as likely to require medical treatment than those of heterosexual youth.
The struggles of LGBTQ+ youth don’t stop there. Suicide attempts by LGB youth and questioning youth are also four to six times more likely to result in injury, poisoning, or overdose that requires treatment from a doctor or nurse, compared to their straight peers. In other words, they are more likely to cause harm to themselves when they attempt suicide. The stress and trauma of living in a society that doesn’t accept them takes an emotional toll on their mental health, leading to such outcomes.
These statistics become even more heart-breaking when considering transgender youth. In a national study, 40% of transgender adults reported having made a suicide attempt. An alarming 92% of these individuals reported having attempted suicide before the age of 25. This data alone should be enough to prompt society to act and create a more accepting and inclusive environment for our transgender youth. The struggles of transgender youth often go unnoticed or unacknowledged. They are exposed to additional levels of discrimination, harassment, and physical violence, leading to higher rates of suicidal ideation and attempts.
LGB youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times as likely to have attempted suicide as their peers who reported no or low levels of family rejection. The sad reality is that many young people who identify as LGBTQ+ are still facing rejection and discrimination from their own families, leading to a higher risk of suicide. A lack of acceptance and support from one’s own family members can be a severe emotional burden that is hard to carry alone. The need for a supportive family environment is critical for LGBTQ+ youth’s mental well-being and should not be taken lightly.
Even more concerning, one out of six students nationwide (grades 9–12) seriously considered suicide in the past year, according to the CDC. This data indicates that suicide is a widespread issue among young people, and more needs to be done to prevent it. The prevalence of suicidal ideation among young people highlights the urgent need for society to take a stand and create a more accepting and inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ youth. We must provide safe spaces for young people to express themselves and provide resources for them to seek help if they need it.
Each episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the likelihood of self-harming behaviour by 2.5 times on average. This means that every time an LGBTQ+ youth is victimized, their risk of self-harm and suicide increases. The cumulative effect of such experiences can be traumatizing and emotionally exhausting, leading to negative impacts on their mental health.
The impact of societal discrimination and violence on LGBTQ+ youth’s mental health is well documented, and various studies have attempted to shed light on this issue. According to a report published by The Trevor Project, a national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ+ youth, LGBTQ+ youth who reported high levels of acceptance from their surroundings were less likely to attempt suicide than those who experienced low levels of acceptance. This highlights the importance of creating a safe and supportive environment for LGBTQ+ youth, including schools, families, and communities. It also highlights the need for society to promote acceptance and understanding of LGBTQ+ individuals to prevent suicide and support mental health.
Creating a supportive environment for LGBTQ+ youth requires effort from all of us. There are several steps we can take as a society to reduce suicide rates among LGBTQ+ youth:
- Provide a safe and inclusive environment: Schools, communities, and families must strive to create a safe and inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ youth. This includes offering support groups, creating safe spaces, and promoting understanding and acceptance.
- Increase access to mental health resources: Young people who identify as LGBTQ+ are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and other mental health issues. It’s crucial to provide them with access to mental health resources, including counselling, support groups, and crisis intervention services.
- Promote acceptance and understanding: Society must work towards promoting acceptance and understanding of LGBTQ+ individuals. This can be done through education and awareness campaigns, highlighting the importance of inclusion and diversity, and challenging harmful stereotypes and prejudices.
- Provide supportive family environments: Families play a critical role in the mental health and well-being of young people. It’s essential to provide supportive family environments for LGBTQ+ youth, including acceptance, love, and understanding.
- Combat bullying and harassment: Bullying and harassment are significant risk factors for suicidal ideation and attempts among LGBTQ+ youth. Schools and communities must take proactive steps to prevent and combat bullying and harassment, including implementing anti-bullying policies and offering support to victims.
Reaching out for Help
If you or someone you know is struggling with mental health issues, it’s essential to seek help. Therapy and counselling can provide a safe and supportive space to discuss and manage mental health challenges. Online telehealth services have made it easier than ever to access mental health support from the comfort of your own home. This can be particularly important for LGBTQ+ youth who may not feel comfortable seeking support in person or who live in areas where LGBTQ+ resources are limited. It’s important to know that there are resources available, and seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness. The Trevor Project offers crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ+ youth 24/7. Other resources include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Seeking help is the first step towards promoting mental health and preventing suicide among LGBTQ+ youth.
In conclusion, suicide among LGBTQ+ youth is a serious and preventable public health issue that demands our attention and action. The statistics are alarming and highlight the urgent need for society to create a safe and inclusive environment for LGBTQ+ youth. It’s crucial to provide access to mental health resources, promote acceptance and understanding, and combat bullying and harassment. By taking proactive steps towards creating a supportive environment for LGBTQ+ youth, we can prevent suicide and promote their mental health and well-being. It’s time for all of us to take a stand and support our LGBTQ+ youth.