Studies have shown that the key difference in regards to suicide between LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, questioning) youth and their straight identified peers is the lack of protective factors and increased existence of external risk factors for LGBTQ. Some examples of risk factors are:
- lack of family support
- increased victimization experiences (bullying, abuse)
- rejection by peers, adults, faith community
- negative coming out experiences
- homophobia/transphobia, and heterosexism
We may not be able to address all of the risk factors present in these youths’ lives, but we can increase support, which decreases the risk for suicide, self harm, and depression among LGBTQ youth remarkably.
In order to reduce the risk for suicide that’s linked to LGBTQ identity we should look at what individuals, schools, providers, and families can do to increase support. These include:
- unconditional support of a child's identity,
- access to safe and knowledgeable health care
- positive messaging from faith community
- welcoming school environment with obvious safe zones and peer-based support programs, like a gay straight alliance
- appropriate response to bullying/harassment (especially biased based)
- condemnation of heterosexism/homophobic remarks
- positive reactions to youth coming out
- adult mentors, including teachers and staff who are identified as LGBTQ-friendly
- LGBTQ inclusive policies
- LGBTQ friendly resources that are easily accessible
The most important thing you can do to help a LGBTQ youth who is suicidal is to show them unconditional support and let them know you truly care about them and what they’re going through.
Bullying and Suicide
Being a victim, perpetrator, or even a witness to bullying has been associated with multiple behavioral, emotional, and social problems, including an increased risk for suicidal ideation.
A recent review of 37 international studies that looked at bullying and suicide risk concluded that there was, indeed, an association. The strongest risk for suicide was found among victims and perpetrators of bullying. Girls were at a higher risk than boys for suicide.
[Kim, Young Shin & Leventhal, Bennett. (2008). Bullying and Suicide. A Review
International Journal of Adolescent Medicine and Health 20(2), 133-154.]
The 2008 findings from the Washington State Healthy Youth Survey reveal:
- 44% of the 8th graders who indicated that they had been harassed for perceived sexual orientation also reported feeling depressed;
- 23% of 10th graders who reported being bullied also reported having made a suicide attempt in the past 12 months;
- Nearly half of the 12th graders who reported being bullied also reported feeling sad and hopeless almost every day for two weeks in a row and 13% reported having attempted suicide.
Find additional information in LGBTQ Youth FAQ.
Know Your School's Anti-Bullying Policy
On August 1, 2011, all Washington State schools were required by law to adopt anti-bullying policies and procedures. To learn what your school's anti-bullying policy is, visit their website's Board Policies pages.