Lesbian, gay and bisexual refer to an individual’s sexual orientation, while transgender refers to gender identity and questioning (LGBTQ) refers to those who are in the process of exploring the nature of their sexual orientation or gender identity. LGBTQ individuals are generally thought to be at higher risk for suicidal behavior. Because sexual orientation and gender identity are not included on death certificates, we do not actually know whether LGBTQ youth die by suicide more often than their peers. However, several studies have shown that LGBTQ youth think about and attempt suicide more frequently than their straight peers. While data limitations make it difficult to determine whether LGBTQ youth actually die by suicide at a higher rate than straight youth, the fact that they have a higher attempt rate makes it probable that they may indeed have a higher rate of suicide death.
While being an individual identified as LGBTQ in and of itself is not a risk factor for suicide, LGBTQ youth are at risk for suicide. Risk factors for suicide include those found for youth in general, but also include additional risk factors more likely to occur with LGBTQ issues such as discrimination, victimization, lack of social support, family issues, homelessness, substance abuse and mental health disorders.
Protective factors that can help to mitigate suicide risk for LGBTQ individuals include strong family or peer support, connections with school staff or other caring adults, positive relationships, and access to mental health professionals or primary healthcare providers.
It is very important to recognize that the time of “coming out” to friends and family can be associated with a high degree of stress, especially for those individuals who lack good support systems. Care providers need to discuss their client’s plans for this experience to help to ensure adequate resources and supports are available during this difficult time.
- SD Safe Space
- The Trevor Project provides crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and questioning youth.
- Suicide Prevention among LGBT Youth: A Workshop for Professionals Who Serve Youth is a free workshop kit to help staff in schools, youth-serving organizations, and suicide prevention programs take action to reduce suicidal behavior among lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth.
- The Suicide Prevention Resource Center’s (SPRC) resources for LGBTQ youth can be found by clicking this link.
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) has developed a resource kit “Top Health Issues for LGBT Populations Information & Resource Kit” that informs health care providers and prevention specialists about the health experiences of LGBTQ populations.
- The American Association of Suicidology (AAS) fact sheet provides general information on suicidal behavior and risk and protective factors for LGB youth.