New research on LGBTQ teen suicide rates

Sponsored: Parents, teachers, mentors, and policymakers must help ensure that LGBTQ teens receive ongoing support and access to mental healthcare resources.

(Newport Healthcare) | New Research on LGBTQ Teen Suicide Rates.

New research from the Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health underlines a consistent trend: Lesbian, gay, bi, and transgender teens are at increased risk of suicide. One of the most diverse surveys of LGBTQ youth ever conducted, the research examined LGBTQ teen suicide rates and protective factors among some 34,000 LGBTQ youth, ages 13 to 24, across the United States. The respondents included a high percentage (45 percent) of LGBTQ youth of color, and 48 percent were transgender or nonbinary youth.

One of the most startling statistics: 50 percent of LGBTQ teens (ages 13–17) seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. And 18 percent actually made a suicide attempt. These LGBTQ suicide rates are more than twice the national averages among teens. According to the CDC, the average rate of teen suicide attempts among all US adolescents is 18 percent, with 9 percent having made a suicide attempt. The new research sheds light on the critical importance of suicide prevention in LGBTQ youth. Parents, teachers, mentors, and policymakers must help ensure that LGBTQ teens receive ongoing support and access to mental healthcare resources.

Statistics on Mental Health and Substance Abuse Among LBGTQ Youth

LGBTQ teen suicide rates and mental health statistics reflect the societal and relationship challenges that these young people face. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), LGBTQ teens are six times more likely to experience symptoms of depression than the general population. Research shows that low family satisfaction, cyberbullying victimization, and unmet medical needs contributed to their higher rates of depression.

The Trevor Project’s new survey found that 75 percent of LGBTQ teens experienced symptoms of anxiety in the past year, and 61 percent experienced symptoms of depression. Among all LGBTQ youth surveyed (ages 13–24), 82 percent wanted mental healthcare in the past year but 60 percent of them were unable to access services.

In addition, Trevor Project statistics on substance abuse in LGBTQ youth show that they use alcohol and drugs at higher rates than their straight, cisgender peers, and these higher rates are directly associated with suicide risk. Regular prescription drug misuse was associated with nearly three times greater odds of attempting suicide, and regular alcohol use was associated with nearly 50 percent higher likelihood of attempting suicide.

Why Are LGBTQ Teens Vulnerable to Suicide?

All teenagers are at risk for suicide. But LBGTQ youth suicide rates are higher because their risks are compounded. As The Trevor Project states, “LGBTQ youth are not inherently prone to suicide risk because of their sexual orientation or gender identity but rather placed at higher risk because of how they are mistreated and stigmatized in society.” Most profoundly, they experience rejection or lack of support from their family members much more often than their heterosexual peers. Nonbinary and transgender family rejection statistics are particularly striking: The 2022 survey found that fewer than one-third of transgender and nonbinary youth say they live in a gender-affirming home.

Moreover, stigma and threats of violence from peers and society at large further impact their mental health and well-being. Data from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows that 34 percent of LGBTQ teens have been bullied on school property and 28 percent have experienced cyberbullying. The Trevor Project survey found that LGBTQ youth who experienced anti-LGBTQ victimization, including being physically threats or harm, discrimination, or conversion therapy, reported more than twice the rate of attempting suicide in the past year.

Hence, the feelings of isolation or “otherness” that often accompany adolescence are magnified for LGBTQ teens. These challenges can be particularly overwhelming for younger adolescents. A 2019 study of LGBTQ teen suicide rates found that one out of four suicides (24 percent) in adolescents age 12 to 14 were among LGBTQ youth. Researchers found that family problems most often contributed to suicides among younger teens.

How to Help

Schools and government policies can make a difference for LGBTQ youth. Youth living in states with anti-bullying laws that include sexual orientation and gender identity report less homophobic victimization and harassment. Schools with Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) clubs provide a more supportive environment for LGBTQ youth.

In addition, families can reach out to their doctor, a mental health professional, or a teen treatment center for advice and referrals regarding signs of depression, suicidal thoughts, or other mental health concerns. With early assessment and treatment, successful outcomes are likely.

Finally, parents of LGBTQ teens need to remind their children often that they are unconditionally loved. Research has consistently shown that support from parents and peers leads to better mental health, greater self-acceptance, and enhanced well-being among LGBTQ youth. As with all teenagers, feeling accepted and loved will make a positive impact on their lives, now and into the future.