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LGBTQ issues

Over 40% of LGBTQ young people have ‘seriously considered’ suicide, study finds

The Daily Beast

May 1, 2023

The Trevor Project report found that nearly 1 in 3 LGBTQ young people said their mental health was poor most of the time, or always, due to anti-LGBTQ policies and legislation.

Forty-one percent of LGBTQ young people seriously considered attempting suicide in the last year—with those surveyed who are transgender, nonbinary, and/or people of color reporting such feelings at higher rates than their peers.

The Trevor Project’s fifth annual U.S. National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People, surveying the experiences of more than 28,000 LGBTQ people ages 13 to 24 across the country, found that nearly 1 in 3 LGBTQ young people said their mental health was poor most of the time, or always, due to anti-LGBTQ policies and legislation.

Nearly 2 in 3 LGBTQ young people said that hearing about potential state or local laws banning people from discussing LGBTQ people at school (as in Florida’s infamous “Don’t Say Gay” bill and others) made their mental health a lot worse. Conversely, 79 percent of LGBTQ young people said hearing about potential state and local laws trying to ban conversion therapy made them feel a little or a lot better.

As of April 3, a record 417 anti-LGBTQ bills have been introduced this year, according to the ACLU.

Dr. Ronita Nath, vice president of research at The Trevor Project, told The Daily Beast, “On top of a growing mental health crisis among the nation’s youth, we’re also negotiating an increasingly hostile political climate that has tragically placed LGBTQ young people at the center of a political wedge issue, which is having a detrimental toll on their mental health. The sheer number of anti-LGBTQ bills is concerning enough. The majority of political attacks targeting trans and non-binary people are attempting to legislate every sphere of their day-to-day lives—from young trans people’s health care to restrictions on bathroom access. These policies and debates are having an impact on LGBTQ young people.”

The study found that 14 percent of LGBTQ young people attempted suicide in the last year, including nearly 1 in 5 trans and nonbinary respondents.

The survey found that a large majority of LGBTQ young people reported recent symptoms of anxiety (67 percent) and depression (54 percent), yet 56 percent of young people who wanted mental health care in the past year were not able to get it. Thirty-eight percent of LGBTQ young people found their home to be LGBTQ-affirming and 54 percent found their school to be affirming. Among transgender and nonbinary young people, 35 percent found their home to be gender-affirming and 52 percent found their school to be affirming.

Many LGBTQ young people enrolled in school reported having a range of negative experiences, including being verbally harassed because people thought they were LGBTQ (53 percent); not being allowed to dress in the way that fits their gender identity or expression (32 percent); being disciplined for fighting back against bullies (25 percent); and experiencing unwanted sexual contact because people thought they were LGBTQ (20 percent).

LGBTQ young people who had access to affirming homes and schools reported much lower rates of attempting suicide, while trans and nonbinary people who lived in homes where their choice of pronouns was respected reported lower rates of attempting suicide.

“The survey shows that many LGBTQ young people are not able to live to their true potential and being, and where students hear about affirming policies, their mental health improved,” said Dr. Nath. “When young LGBTQ people are affirmed, they thrive.”

Fewer trans and non-binary young people found their schools to be more affirming than did their cisgender LGB peers, Dr. Nath said. Eighty-one percent of LGBTQ young people surveyed wanted mental health care, but 56 percent were not able to access any. Dr. Nath said, “They had fears about discussing their specific mental health needs with a provider, the cost, of getting their parents’ permission, and were also afraid of not being taken seriously.”

Dr. Nath said LGBTQ young people had told the Trevor Project that their mental health would be improved if “others learned the basics of LGBTQ identities, learned more about pronouns, creating safer spaces, and about micro-aggressions, and racism. Parents, schools, and peers need to do more about this, so these young people feel more supported at home and school.”

Dr. Nath said she hoped policymakers would study the report’s findings, and “introduce legislation that protects LGBTQ young people from discrimination and conversion therapy, and provides them with access to health care, safe, affirming spaces and safe schools, and intersectional mental health services which consider the needs of students who may have multiple marginalized identities. The young people told us what a world it would be if there were gender-neutral bathrooms, and no one had to worry about coming out because there were no anti-LGBTQ bills. They’re not feeling safe right now.”

Despite the alarming statistics, The Trevor Project has been encouraged by the number of LGBTQ young people, and their allies, who have protested the bills being aimed at them.

A spokesperson told The Daily Beast, “Something that brings us a lot of hope is the overwhelming upswell of activism by LGBTQ young people. It’s a difficult and challenging time. Young LGBTQ people are being placed in the middle of political rhetoric and debate which many don’t want to be part of. It’s been really inspiring to see them rise up, and make their voices heard in places like Florida. There are a lot of glimmers of hope to be had in the midst of what we are going through.”

If you or a loved one are struggling with suicidal thoughts, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255), or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting TALK to 741741. You can also text or dial 988. The Trevor Project can be reached for help here.