It is no doubt alarming to learn that LGBTQ youth experience more violence, victimization, and report higher suicide risk than their peers; in fact, they are more than 4 times as likely to attempt suicide. Another study found 42% of LGBTQ youth have seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. Everyone has the right to feel safe and accepted in their community - especially children - and in this article, we discuss some of the things that can be done to address this issue. And to be clear, LGBTQ youth are not inherently more prone to suicide risk because of their orientation or gender identity but are put at higher risk because of how they are stigmatized in society.
Key risk factors for LGBTQ youth suicide
Research shows that multiple factors are key risk factors for LGBTQ youth suicide. Like anyone who experiences highly negative emotional experiences, lack of acceptance amongst family and peers, lack of what would be considered a “safe place” to find peace and comfort, and outright discrimination can cause stress, anxiety, and depression in this group. Research backs up the following experiences that correlate with mental health issues:
- Only a third of youth in this group find parental acceptance, another third experience outright parental rejection, and another third do not dislcose their LGBTQ identity until they are adults due to fear of rejection.
- Young adults who report high levels of parental rejection are 8 times more likely to report attempting suicide and 6 times more likely to report high levels of depression.
- 75% of LGBTQ youth report that they have experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity at least once in their lifetime, and more than 50% said they experienced this discrimination in the past year. Those who experienced discrimination attempted suicide at more than 2x the rate of those who did not.
- 72% of LGBTQ youth reported symptoms of anxiety in the past year, including more than 75% of transgender and nonbinary youth.
- 62% of LGBTQ youth reported symptoms of depression in the past year, including more than ⅔ of transgender and nonbinary youth.
What can we do to help LGBTQ youth?
As with others experiencing mental health issues, nearly half of LGBTQ youth have wanted counseling from a mental health professional in the past year - but in this case, they were not able to receive it for one reason or another. Helping LGBTQ youth find and get good mental health counseling is a good place to start. Telebehavioral health services - qualified therapy done virtually - may be a way to break down barriers, remove stigmas, and increase access for this group.
Studies have also found that LGBTQ youth who had access to spaces that affirmed their sexual orientation and gender identity reported lower rates of attempting suicide. As well, affirming transgender and nonbinary youth by respecting their pronouns and allowing them to change legal documents is also associated with lower rates of attempting suicide.
When asked in a survey what helps them get through daily challenges and feel better about themselves, LGBTQ youth mentioned things like:
- Connection with others
- Identity pride events
- Art and creative expression
- Feeling seen and validated
- Faith and spirituality
- Moving away from unsupportive situations and people
- Representation in media
- Online and offline support groups
- LGBTQ support in school
If you or a loved one need help with mental health issues, consider contacting a qualified telebehavioral health professional
If you’re a client, request an appointment online or call our live support for assistance in scheduling care today. Our mental health professionals are trained in multiple mental health disorders and have experience treating them via online appointments - from the convenience and privacy of your home or wherever works for you. If you’re a behavioral health provider looking to join our network, see all the benefits and learn how to apply here.