70% of queer teens feel hopeless & 22% attempted suicide, CDC says

Kids Online Safety Act (KOSA), LGBTQ, Trevor Project, queer, suicide, censorship
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LGBQ+ youth – teen girls in particular – are experiencing high levels of violence and mental distress, according to the most recent data from the biannual Youth Risk Behavior Survey conducted by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The survey, which examines health experiences among U.S. high school students, found that in 2021, 52 percent of LGBQ+ students experienced poor mental health, and 22 percent had attempted suicide or had experienced sexual violence.

In 2021, nearly half of LGBQ+ students seriously considered attempting suicide, 22 percent attempted suicide, and nearly 70 percent reported persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, the CDC noted. Nearly 25 percent of LGBQ+ teens reported being bullied in school, and 14 percent of LGBQ+ teens said they missed school because of safety concerns.

While the survey didn’t ask teens about their gender identity, the CDC noted, “Previous research has shown that transgender young people experience greater levels of violence, more stigma, and are more likely to have mental health problems and suicidal thoughts and behaviors than the rest of their peers.”

Generally speaking, the survey found that rates of suicidal ideation had increased by 60 percent amongst all teens (regardless of sexual orientation) over the last decade. Rates of sexual violence had increased 20 percent for all teens since 2017, the year that the CDC first began tracking this measurement. In 2021, teen girls attempted suicide and experienced suicidal ideation at rates more than double that of their male counterparts.

“High school should be a time for trailblazing, not trauma,” Debra Houry, the CDC’s Chief Medical Officer said in a statement about the survey’s findings. “These data show our kids need far more support to cope, hope, and thrive.”

The CDC didn’t state whether the outcomes resulted from increased political attacks on the LGBTQ+ community. However, previous CDC reports found that increased rates of violence and mental distress among LGBQ+ teens result from “minority stress” caused by social stigma. This stigma causes LGBQ+ teens to experience external stressors (such as violence, discrimination, or harassment) and internal stressors (identity concealment or expectations of rejection).

The CDC said that schools and community organizations can play a part in helping resolve the increase in violence and mental distress.

Evidence from previous studies suggests that school anti-harassment policies, LGBTQ+-straight alliances, and teacher training can assist in improving school environments for queer students, the CDC wrote. The agency also suggested that schools might consider collaborating with community organizations and stakeholders to implement comprehensive violence and suicide prevention strategies.

“Safe and trusted adults—like mentors, trained teachers, and staff—can help foster school connectedness, so that teens know the people around them care about them, their well-being, and their success,” the CDC wrote. “Schools can provide education that equips teens with essential skills, such as understanding and ensuring true sexual consent, managing emotions, and asking for what they need.”

Editor’s note: This article mentions suicide. If you need to talk to someone now, call the Trans Lifeline at 1-877-565-8860. It’s staffed by trans people, for trans people. The Trevor Project provides a safe, judgement-free place to talk for LGBTQ youth at 1-866-488-7386. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

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