LGBTQ youth who die by suicide are more likely to have been bullied, according to a new study published in JAMA Pediatrics.
LGBTQ youth are both more likely to be bullied and more likely to report suicidal thoughts and behaviors than cisgender, heterosexual youth. A team of researchers set out to determine if the two high rates are related.
The researchers examined death records for teens from 2003 to 2017, examining both the coroner’s or medical examiner’s report and police reports about the suicides. Since the records don’t always say how a decedent identified, the researchers looked for keywords describing how their families saw them, if they had a same-sex boyfriend or girlfriend, or if they were taking steps toward a transition.
Overall, they counted around 3% of the nearly 10,000 suicide records they had access to as LGBTQ. The researchers note that this is probably an undercount – there may have been LGBTQ youth whose death certificates and police reports didn’t mention their gender identity or sexual orientation in any way.
Then they looked for signs of bullying in the records, like the decedent saying that they were bullied or an investigation finding evidence of bullying.
Overall, they found that 21% of the LGBTQ youth who died by suicide were bullied before death. Around 4.4% of the non-LGBTQ youth were bullied. LGBTQ teens who died by suicide were five times more likely to have been bullied.
“This finding speaks to the need for bullying prevention efforts and supportive interventions to foster esteem and belonging for LGBTQ youth,” study co-author and Yale University epidemiologist Kirsty Clark said told UPI.
“Anti-bullying policies that explicitly include sexual orientation and gender identity are critical to reducing bullying and are associated with lower risk of suicide attempts among LGBTQ youth.”