Teen Suicide Bigger Risk if You are GLBT?
Gay Teen Suicide
Teen suicide is a pretty heavy subject. Sadly GLBT adolescents may be even more likely to commit or attempt suicide than are straight teens.
However, it is important to realize that being GLBT itself is not a risk factor for suicide. Rather, the negative treatment that many GLBT teens endure can lead to suicidal feelings.
The GLBT suicide prevention organization, the Trevor Project explains that, “Sexual orientation and gender identity alone are not risk factors for suicide. However, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) youth face many social factors that put them at higher risk for self-destructive behaviors, including suicide.”
Gay Teen Suicide Facts
According to the Massachusetts 2006 Youth Risk Survey, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers. In addition, the San Francisco State University Chavez Center Institute has found that LGBTQ youth who come from a rejecting family are up to nine times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.
Gay Teen Suicide Help
If you or someone you know is thinking about suicide, please get help immediately.
Teen Suicide Risk Factors
There are common risk factors of youth suicide. Recent research has shown that most youth suicides are the result of an interaction between biological, psychological, socio-cultural and family factors. A suicidal act can be seen as the result of an interaction between these factors. Generally, they only come to light after a significant life event happens in a youth that touches off thoughs of or attempts at suicide.
- Mood changes or depression
- Drug and alcohol abuse
- Disruptlve and unsupportive family background
- Relationship conflicts
- Poor coping skills
- Psychiatric illnesses
- Previous attempts
- Ready availability of lethal means to commit suicide
- recent bereavement
- chronic physical illness
- anniversary phenomenon (of past losses or major life events)
- early loss experiences
- school failure
- chronic unemployment
- perfectionists and over-achievers who have high expectations of themselves
Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Youth Suicide Statistics
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning youth are up to four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers, according to the Massachusetts 2006 Youth Risk Survey. A 2009 study, “Family Rejection as a Predictor of Negative Health Outcomes” led by Dr. Caitlin Ryan and conducted as part of the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University, shows that adolescence who were rejected by their families for being LGBT were 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide. And for every completed suicide by a young person, it is estimated that 100 to 200 attempts are made (2003 Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance Survey).
In Always My Child: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding Your Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender or Questioning Son or Daughter, author Kevin Jennings associates this statistic with the stressors gay youth face, such as:
- Increasing awareness of same sex attraction.
- Disclosure of sexual orientation to family and friends.
- Victimization provoked by their sexual orientation (verbal abuse, threats of physical violence, etc.).
Gay and Lesbian Youth at Risk for Suicide?
With regard to completed suicide, there are no national statistics for suicide rates among gay, lesbian or bisexual (GLB) persons. Sexual orientation is not a question on the death certificate, and to determine whether rates are higher for GLB persons, we would need to know the proportion of the U.S. population that considers themselves gay, lesbian or bisexual. Sexual orientation is a personal characteristic that people can, and often do choose to hide, so that in psychological autopsy studies of suicide victims where risk factors are examined, it is difficult to know for certain the victim’s sexual orientation. This is particularly a problem when considering GLB youth who may be less certain of their sexual orientation and less open. In the few studies examining risk factors for suicide where sexual orientation was assessed, the risk for gay or lesbian persons did not appear any greater than among heterosexuals, once mental and substance abuse disorders were taken into account.
With regard to suicide attempts, several state and national studies have reported that high school students who report to be homosexually and bisexually active have higher rates of suicide thoughts and attempts in the past year compared to youth with heterosexual experience. Experts have not been in complete agreement about the best way to measure reports of adolescent suicide attempts, or sexual orientation, so the data are subject to question. But they do agree that efforts should focus on how to help GLB youth grow up to be healthy and successful despite the obstacles that they face. Because school based suicide awareness programs have not proven effective for youth in general, and in some cases have caused increased distress in vulnerable youth, they are not likely to be helpful for GLB youth either. Because young people should not be exposed to programs that do not work, and certainly not to programs that increase risk, more research is needed to develop safe and effective programs.