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LGBT Youth Suicide: Statistics & Prevention

Instructor: Karin Gonzalez

Karin has taught middle and high school Health and has a master's degree in social work.

Suicide is, alarmingly, the leading cause of death for LGBT youth. Prevention techniques like family counseling and anti-bullying programs can help prevent LGBT depression, isolation and suicide. Learn more statistics and prevention methods for LGBT youth suicide in this lesson.

What is LGBT Youth Suicide?

Mark is a gay eighth-grader who recently came out to his family and friends. His religious parents told him that they wanted nothing to do with him. Even though his two close friends accepted him, he is mocked by peers on a daily basis. Mark has reached the point where he is contemplating if it would just be easier to end his life.

LGBT stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender and it is the socially and politically accurate acronym to categorize this community of individuals. For LGBT youth such as Mark, depression and suicide are major concerns due to the difficulties that many of them face with family and friends who do not agree with their sexual identity and/or preference. Sometimes LGBT youth are ostracized by their religious community or feel excluded by society as a whole.

LGBT Youth Suicide Statistics

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the second leading cause of death for those in the 10-24 age group. Yet, it is the leading cause of death for LGBT youth. The rate of suicide is four times more likely for LGBT youth than it is for straight youth. If a LGBT youth attempted suicide, they would be four to six times more likely than a straight youth to severely hurt themselves to the point of needing medical attention or actually dying.

Transgender youth are youth whose sexual identity does not conform to the sex they were born with, nor do they mesh with the societal gender standards and norms. They are often targets of victimization, including verbal and physical abuse. About half of transgender youth have thought about committing suicide, and 25% of these youth have actually made a suicide attempt.

LGBT Youth Suicide Prevention

Education

It is important for schools, parents and organization that work with children to be educated on the risks associated with being a LGBT youth. There are many online resources that can provide adults with information including statistics, ways to talk to LGBT youth, and other ways to help depressed and suicidal LGBT youth. Some of these resources include the Centers for Disease Control, the American Association for Suicidology, and the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.

Community and International Support

There are national and worldwide movements that are intended to support LGBT youth and help them navigate the difficulties that come with being LGBT. A big one is the 'It Gets Better Project', which supports LGBT youth with the message that it does get better for them. Meetings can be powerful reinforcement of identity for LGBT youth, and can provide them with tools to combat depression and isolation by means of videos, social media, community discussions and celebrity spokespersons.

The It Gets Better Project meets in Vienna, Austria at the U.S. Embassy.
Image of It Gets Better Project

Bullying Prevention

Most kids are innately empathetic and supportive of their LGBT peers, especially as LGBT becomes more of an accepted norm and LGBT awareness and education increases. It is the children and teens who bully LGBT peers that are really dangerous to the mental health of a LGBT youth. Anti-bullying programs can teach children to report or intervene when they see someone being bullied. This is important because if LGBT youth feel safe and supported in their school, they are less likely to be suicidal.

In addition to anti-bullying programs, some high schools have the Gay Straight Alliance which is an organization intended to make LGBT teens feel included and supported.
Image of Gay straight alliance

Counseling and Support

If an LGBT youth appears depressed or is having a difficult time with family and friends, a counselor might provide them the support and empathetic ear that they desperately need. In addition, organizations such as The Trevor Project provide crisis counseling and intervention to suicidal LGBT youth. The National Youth Talkline is another organization that provides phone counseling and support to suicidal youth. Many counties and cities have their own suicide prevention centers and hotlines as well.

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