Study: More LGBTQ teens coming out but suicide rate still high

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BOSTON — A new study from Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) found that the proportion of high school students identifying as LGBTQ doubled from 2009 to 2017, but their suicide rate is still high compared to straight students.

The suicide rate among LGBTQ teens went from five times as high as their straight counterparts to four times as high.

“Large disparities in suicide attempts persisted even as the percent of students identifying as LGBQ increased. In 2017, more than 20% of LGBQ teens reported attempting suicide in the past year,” study lead author Dr. Julia Raifman, assistant professor of health law, policy & management at BUSPH, said in a press release last week.

“It’s critical that health and educational institutions have policies and programs in place to protect and improve LGBQ health, such as medical school curricula and high school health curricula that are inclusive of sexual minority health,” she said.

Raifman said LGBTQ rights also play a particularly important role in shaping mental health. In a 2017 study, Raifman found that states’ legalization of same-sex marriage came with a 7% decrease in all high school student suicide attempts. She notes that other research (including a 2018 study she led) has shown that anti-policies harm the mental health of LGBTQ adults and teens. “Our new paper indicates that an increasing number of teenagers are identifying as LGBQ, and will be affected by anti-LGBQ policies that may elevate these already very high rates of suicide attempts” she said.

The study was published in the journal Pediatrics.

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