Suicide prevention groups decry tidal wave of anti-LGBTQ bills

The nation’s largest suicide prevention organization, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP), and the largest suicide prevention and mental health organization for LGBTQ youth, The Trevor Project, released the following statement this week: 

“We strongly oppose any legislation or policy that threatens the healthcare of the LGBTQ community or bans the discussion of topics regarding sexual orientation or gender identity in classrooms. The Trevor Project has been fighting back against these harmful legislative proposals for years through its state and national advocacy work, conducting original research to amplify the experiences of LGBTQ youth and raise awareness, and providing support directly via its 24/7 crisis services. Now that these policies are impacting several states and affecting the mental health of LGBTQ young people and because research demonstrates the negative impacts on their mental health, AFSP is dedicated more than ever to supporting this community and providing them with the support they need and deserve.

Our organizations have been actively involved in research related to LGBTQ experiences and know the alarming risks that members of this community face. Research indicates that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth and young adults are at greater risk for seriously considering and attempting suicide compared to their straight, cisgender peers; transgender youth report an even higher prevalence of suicide attempts than their LGB or straight peers. Also, The Trevor Project’s 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health of nearly 35,000 LGBTQ youth ages 13-24 found that 42% of respondents seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth; 62% reported symptoms of major depressive disorder within the preceding two weeks, and 70% stated that their mental health was “poor” most of the time or always during COVID-19. It’s important to emphasize that it’s not the identity that creates risks for suicide; the risk is created by how these youth are treated in our society – both at the individual level as well as at the macro policy and culture level. 

Researchers largely agree that at least part of the reason for the elevated rates of suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts, and poor mental health outcomes found among LGBTQ people is the social stigma, prejudice, and discrimination that contributes to the minority stress of being LGBTQ. AFSP-funded research shows that something as simple as using a trans person’s chosen name and pronouns can reduce suicidal ideation. The escalation of state policies that are harmful to LGBTQ people will only heighten and intensify experiences of rejection and discrimination and could lead to an increase in suicidal ideation. Whether it’s limiting conversations around the broad topics of gender identity and sexual orientation or making gender-affirming care for a trans teen a felony, our organizations recognize the challenges the LGBTQ community is facing at this time and want them to know that they are not alone and have our support. We are taking action. 

AFSP has enlisted its volunteer-led AFSP chapters in several states, including Florida, Tennessee, Idaho and South Carolina, to support LGBTQ communities and make opposition to these harmful bills a priority for their meetings with state and local public officials. AFSP has also mobilized its grassroots advocates to send emails to legislators via AFSP’s Action Center

The Trevor Project is working closely with a broad coalition of national, state, and local partners in the LGBTQ movement, to respond to the more than 200 anti-LGBTQ bills introduced across a majority of states, most of which specifically target transgender and nonbinary youth. The organization has been traveling to statehouses to provide in-person testimony at legislative committee hearings, mobilizing supporters to contact their elected officials, investing in digital marketing campaigns to raise awareness and support for LGBTQ youth, and submitting letters of support/opposition and amici curiae that center its original research on LGBTQ youth mental health and suicide prevention. 

It is our individual and collective responsibility to increase the acceptance and affirmation of LGBTQ youth to support their mental health. Lawmakers should be advancing policies that will help reduce anti-LGBTQ stigma and prevent suicide, not cause more harm.” 

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