(NEW YORK) — LGBTQ youth of color and transgender and nonbinary youth have a greater risk of suicide than their peers, especially if they have experienced discrimination, according to a new survey.
The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people, included the findings in its third annual national survey on LGBTQ youth mental health, released Wednesday.
For the first time, the cross-sectional survey, which had nearly 35,000 respondents between the ages of 13 and 24 across the United States, included data on suicide risk as it relates to race and ethnicity.
That data shows “concerning” disparities in suicide risk for LGBTQ youth of color and transgender and nonbinary youth, Amy Green, vice president of research for the Trevor Project and a clinical psychologist, told ABC News.
“There’s not something inherent about being LGBTQ that relates to increased mental health challenges or suicide risk. It’s the way that they’re treated,” Green said. “And for trans and nonbinary youth and youth of color, those identities are compounded and relating to even greater risk.”
The survey found that 42% of respondents seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. For transgender and nonbinary youth, it was more than half. Among the respondents, 12% of white youth attempted suicide compared to 31% of Native/Indigenous youth, 21% of Black youth, 21% of multiracial youth, 18% of Latinx youth and 12% of Asian/Pacific Islander youth.
The risk of suicide attempts increased when factoring in discrimination, the survey found. Thirty-six percent of LGBTQ youth who experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation, gender identity and race/ethnicity reported attempting suicide, compared to only 7% of LGBTQ youth who did not experience discrimination.
“While we would anticipate that there would be that cumulative risk … the difference between 7% and 36% was particularly impactful,” Green said.
Additionally, LGBTQ youth who said they were subjected to conversion therapy reported more than twice the rate of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who were not, the survey found.
Transgender and nonbinary youth who reported having their pronouns respected by those they lived with attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not, the survey found.
Green said the survey results show the importance of gender-affirming policies in a year that has seen dozens of laws introduced that would impact the rights of transgender youth, including their access to gender-affirming health care.
“Unfortunately across this country, there have been a number of anti-trans policies that have happened this year alone,” Green said. “We have the power not just to inform people but to advocate for change and policies that are supportive of LGBTQ youth, and not the policies that are even further restricting their rights and putting them at further risk of suicide.”
The survey, which was conducted online from Oct. 12 to Dec. 31 last year, also looked at how the coronavirus pandemic may have impacted LGBTQ youth’s mental health. Seventy percent of respondents said their mental health was “poor” most of the time or always during COVID-19. More than 80% of LGBTQ youth said that COVID-19 made their living situation more stressful. Only 1 in 3 LGBTQ youth found their home to be LGBTQ-affirming.
For Dr. Ken Duckworth, the chief medical officer of the National Alliance on Mental Illness, that data point showed “big opportunities for people to make a change in their own lives for the people they love.”
“Clearly, there’s a lot of mental health sequelae of not being in an affirming home,” he said. “Thinking about how you approach things within your own family — it’s a powerful message because 2 out of 3 families apparently aren’t meeting the needs of people who are responding to this survey. That’s a lot of families.”
LGBTQ youth with at least one accepting adult in their lives were less likely to attempt suicide, according to Green.
“We like to remind people — anyone can be that person,” she said.
If you or a loved one is experiencing suicidal thoughts, The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support. Call 1-800-273-8255 for help.
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