Recent research concludes that suicide rates are down among non-straight teens and LGBTQ youth overall, but they are still far and apart occurring at a higher rate than straight or cisgender teens.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for young people ages 10-24, and these studies can help address what is causing so many to take their own lives and how our society is failing them.
One study published its data in the medical Pediatrics journal, analyzing information from the Youth Risk Behavioral Surveillance Survey collected in six states from 2009 to 2017. Lead study author, assistant professor Julia Raifman from Boston University, wrote that “large disparities in suicide attempts persisted[…]even as the percent of students identifying as LGBQ increased.”
The survey combs its data from Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Massachusetts, North Dakota, and Rhode Island – the only six states that continuously collected information on sexual orientation of teens. Data on transgender people was not incorporated into this study.
The research found that the number of out teens has doubled in these states – from 7.3 percent in 2009 to 14.3 percent in 2017. Yet, suicide rates among teens during that same period found that those who didn’t identify as heterosexual were more than three times as likely to attempt suicide than straight teens.
The study also found girls were out as non-heterosexual at more than twice the rate as boys, and the number of teens that “experimented” with non-straight sexual activity grew from 7.7 to 13 percent over that same time.
A second study, conducted at Brown University over two decades, “found that suicidal plans and attempts were declining across the board,” but non-heterosexual youth were still found to have “suicidal thoughts, plans and attempts” more often. This study used data from schools and hospitals in Massachusetts from 1995 to 2017.
Notably, calls to suicide hotlines reportedly increased in the wake of a referendum on transgender rights in 2018, which also followed many of Trump’s anti-trans policies.
What can be done to lower these numbers? Both studies conclude that supporting youth and respecting their sexuality will contribute to lower suicide rates.
The findings led to the researchers from the Pediatrics study to “dramatically point out the need for increased efforts to assist and support these young people.”
“It’s critical that health and educational institutions have policies and programs in place to protect and improve LGBQ health,” Raifman wrote.
There are several foundations dedicated to suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth, namely The Trevor Project and It Gets Better Project. They both offer several ways for every day people to get involved, including – but not limited to – donating money. For example, It Gets Better encourages everyone to take a pledge in defense of LGBTQ youth and educate others, even through social media.
The Trevor Project, which just received a historic multimillion-dollar grant, offers multiple ways for anyone to get involved on the local level. They offer their own direct suicide prevention services, such as a live chat and hotline, in addition to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline – 1-800-273-8255.
Additionally, Trans Lifeline’s hotline for transgender people contemplating suicide is 1-877-565-8860.