Rates of suicidal thoughts in LGBTQ youth have increased over the last three years, according to a report from advocacy group The Trevor Project. The fourth annual National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health compiled data from close to 34,000 LGBTQ people aged 13 to 24 to assess the state of mental health within the community, and the results are sobering.
According to the report – in which 45% of respondents reported being LGBTQ youth of color and 48% transgender or nonbinary, making it the most diverse survey yet – 45% of LGBTQ youth considered suicide in the last year, and nearly 20% of transgender and nonbinary youth attempted suicide. LGBTQ youth of color were more likely to report suicidal ideation and attempt than their white peers.
It is not surprising that LGBTQ mental health, particularly that of young people, is in decline. This year alone, hundreds of anti-LGBTQ and specifically anti-trans bills have already been introduced in states across the country, leaving kids and young people feeling attacked, alone, and unsure of where to go when they need help.
“The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and record wave of anti-LGBTQ legislation cannot be understated, as they continue to negatively impact LGBTQ youth’s mental health. Anti-LGBTQ bills are at an all-time high this year, with more than 300 being filed in 2022 alone, most of which specifically target transgender and nonbinary youth, ”Dr. Myeshia Price, a senior researcher at The Trevor Project, told Fatherly. Transgender and nonbinary youth, who already report the highest rates of anxiety and depression symptoms, are worried about anti-transgender legislation: 93% said they have worried about trans people being denied access to gender-affirming medical care, 91% worried about trans people being denied access to the bathroom, and 83% said they were worried about trans people being denied the ability to play sports. ”
However, survey participants who felt supported by their families were more than 50% less likely to attempt suicide than those who did not feel supported. “Especially in light of the wave of anti-LGBTQ laws we’ve been witnessing across the country, parents should make sure they are affirming their children’s LGBTQ identities,” Price said. “The most common supportive actions taken by parents or caregivers included being welcoming to their LGBTQ friends or partners, talking with them respectfully about their LGBTQ identity, using their names and pronouns correctly, supporting their gender expression, and educating themselves about LGBTQ people and issues . ”
The survey also found that 60% of LGBTQ youth who needed mental health care did not receive it. “The top four barriers to care reported by youth were fears around discussing mental health, concerns with parental permission, fears of not being taken seriously, and lack of affordability,” said Price. “Many LGBTQ youth of color, specifically, expressed concern that providers would not understand their culture. Parents and caregivers can openly discuss these issues with the young people in their lives to help destigmatize them and eliminate the fear that is often associated with these types of conversations. ”
It’s important to note that LGBTQ youth are not more prone to suicidal ideation or attempts because of their gender identity or sexual orientation, Price explained. Rather, they are “placed at higher risk because of how they are mistreated and stigmatized in society. With this in mind, we encourage all parents to treat all LGBTQ youth in their lives with dignity and respect – because affirming them for who they are can be life-saving. ”