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Study finds 39% of LGBTQ youth, more than half of transgender and non-binary youth have considered suicide in past year

A non-binary student taking notes in class.(Photo by Zackary Drucker as part of Broadly’s Gender Spectrum Collection)

NEW YORK — The Trevor Project on Tuesday released the results of its inaugural National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health. The survey found that 39 percent of LGBTQ youth surveyed have seriously considered suicide in the past twelve months, with more than half of transgender and non-binary youth having seriously considered suicide. Nearly 1 in 5 LGBTQ youth in this study attempted suicide in the past twelve months, with nearly 1 in 3 transgender and non-binary youth having attempted.

The study also found that conversion therapy is impacting LGBTQ youth across the country and putting them at higher risk of negative mental health outcomes. Two out of every three LGBTQ youth report that someone attempted to convince them to change their sexual orientation or gender identity, with youth who have undergone conversion therapy more than twice as likely to attempt suicide as those who did not. 42 percent of LGBTQ youth who underwent conversion therapy reported a suicide attempt in the last year, with 57 percent of transgender and non-binary youth who have undergone conversion therapy reporting a suicide attempt over the past 12 months. Conversion therapy is the dangerous and discredited practice aimed at changing an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity and is still legal in 33 states across the country.

“Suicide is an ongoing public health crisis for young people in the U.S., especially among LGBTQ youth. Better understanding the mental health experiences of LGBTQ young people is a major step in addressing their significantly higher risk for attempting suicide,” said Amit Paley, CEO & Executive Director of The Trevor Project. “The Trevor Project’s new data underscores the need for LGBTQ inclusive and life affirming policies, environments, families, and communities — especially in support of transgender and non-binary youth. Together, we can ensure that LGBTQ young people know their lives have value, and that they are heard, loved, and never alone.”

The Trevor Project’s National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health is the largest survey ever conducted on the mental health of LGBTQ youth. The survey included nearly 35,000 LGBTQ youth respondents between the ages of 13 and 24 from every state in the United States.

The study found that rates of suicide attempts were twice as high among respondents who reported being discriminated against or physically threatened due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, compared to those who did not. Further, 76 percent of the respondents felt that recent politics impacted their mental health or sense of self.

“It’s important to note that LGBTQ youth are not at higher risk of suicide because of their sexual orientation or gender identity–they are at a higher risk because they face harmful rejection and discrimination from friends, families and communities that can make them feel their lives are worth less than their straight or cisgender peers,” added Paley. “That is why it is so important that we work tirelessly to let LGBTQ youth know that they are beautiful as they are, that they are deserving of respect, and that they are not alone.”

Additional findings from the survey include:

Conversion Therapy and Change Attempts

  • Two-thirds of LGBTQ youth report that someone attempted to convince them to change their gender identity or sexual orientation.
  • Fifty-seven percent of transgender and non-binary youth who have undergone conversion therapy report a suicide attempt in the last twelve months.
  • Thirty-two percent of cisgender LGBQ youth who have experienced conversion therapy report a suicide attempt in the past year.

In developing and releasing this report, The Trevor Project hopes to elevate the voices and experiences of LGBTQ youth while providing insights that can be used to end conversion therapy, including through The Trevor Project’s 50 Bills 50 States campaign and by the many organizations working to support LGBTQ youth around the world.

Discrimination and Victimization

  • 71% of LGBTQ youth reported being discriminated against due to their sexual orientation or gender identity and 20% reported being physically threatened or abused. Those same LGBTQ youth reported more than double the rate of suicide attempts.
  • Twenty-three percent of youth who experienced discrimination due to their sexual orientation reported a suicide attempt in the past year, compared to 11 percent who did not, and 33 percent of transgender and non-binary youth who experienced discrimination due to their gender identity reported a suicide attempt in the past year, compared to 17 percent who did not.
  • Forty-seven percent of transgender and non-binary youth who were physically threatened or abused in the past year due to their sexual orientation or gender identity reported a suicide attempt in the past 12 months, compared to 20 percent who did not. For cisgender LGBQ youth, the rate was 27 percent among those who were physically threatened or abused compared to 11 percent among those who were not.
  • 58% percent of transgender and non-binary youth reported being discouraged from using a bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity.
  • More than one in three transgender and non-binary youth who were prevented from using a bathroom that corresponds to their gender identity reported a suicide attempt in the past year, compared to one in five who did not experience this type of discrimination.

Disclosure and Acceptance

  • LGBTQ youth share their sexual orientation more often than their gender identity. Both sexual orientation and gender identity are disclosed most often with peers, particularly LGBTQ friends.
  • LGBTQ youth disclosed their sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) status to their friends at the highest rates, but they are also disclosing to adults in their lives, including parents, teachers, doctors, and more.
  • Less than half of LGBTQ respondents, however, were out to an adult at school, with youth much less likely to disclose their gender identity than sexual orientation.
  • LGBTQ youth are finding acceptance most from their friends, but overall acceptance is lower for gender identity than sexual orientation.

“We believe this research can save lives,” said Dr. Amy Green, Director of Research, The Trevor Project. “This data will help The Trevor Project to continue to improve and expand our life-saving services for LGBTQ youth. It will also provide our team on the ground in legislatures across the country data they need to support what we know to be dangers associated with conversion therapy and other forms of discrimination and victimization. This report also highlights the need for increased education and training to prepare support networks to best help LGBTQ who experience thoughts of suicide. We plan to leverage these findings to help advocate for LGBTQ youth for years to come.”

The Trevor Project launched the first ever National LGBTQ Youth Mental Health Survey as part of its commitment to use research and data to continually improve its life-saving services for LGBTQ youth and expand the knowledge base for organizations around the globe. This survey builds upon critical research done by many partner organizations over the years and is inclusive of youth of more than one hundred sexual orientations and more than one hundred gender identities from all fifty states across the country.

If you or someone you know is feeling hopeless or suicidal, trained crisis counselors are available 24/7/365 at 1-866-488-7386 and www.TheTrevorProject.org/Help. 

This survey was conducted through an online platform between February 2, 2018 and September 30, 2018 among 34,808 respondents ages 13–24 who resided in the United States. Respondents were defined as being LGBTQ if they identified with a sexual orientation other than straight/heterosexual, a gender identity other than cisgender, or both. The study uses “transgender and non-binary” as an umbrella term to encompass a wide variety of gender identities. The survey is not based on a probability sample. For additional information on methodology such as sample description and comparability, filters and exclusions, question development, and more please visit https://www.thetrevorproject.org/LGBTQYouthMentalHealth.

Press release from The Trevor Project

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