1 in 10 LGBTQ youth attempted suicide last year; 90% negatively impacted by policies

NEW YORK — More than one in 10 young LGBTQ people in the U.S. attempted suicide last year, while only half of those who wanted mental health care were able to access it, according to a survey released Wednesday.

Findings from the 6th Annual National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ+ Young People show that the shocking, yet expected, high rate of suicide risk among LGBTQ youth demonstrates the imperative need for policymakers, community leaders and the public in general to support and celebrate kids who don’t identify as heterosexual or cisgender.

Among the more than 18,000 survey participants interviewed by researchers with The Trevor Project — the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth — nearly four in 10 of them (39%) “seriously considered” suicide in the past year. That includes nearly half (46%) of transgender and nonbinary young respondents.

About 12% of all LGBTQ youth attempted suicide in 2023, with youth of color reporting higher rates than their white peers.

The latest data, released to coincide with National Mental Health Awareness Month, reaffirm an ongoing trend among young people in the U.S. — rates of suicide risk and ideation, anxiety and depression have remained consistently high over the past six years for young LGBTQ people.

And when compared to data compiled by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System, lesbian, gay, bisexual and queer young people have higher rates of suicide than their straight peers, according to Dr. Ronita Nath, the organization’s VP of research.

There are no parameters that allow researchers to compare the suicide risk of transgender youth with their cisgender counterparts since the CDC didn’t collect data on trans and nonbinary people for its latest report, released in June 2023.

While young LGBTQ+ people are not inherently more likely to consider suicide, they are more prone to have more mental health issues when compared to non-LGBTQ youth because of how they’re mistreated and victimized by others because of their gender or sexual identity, Dr. Nath told the Daily News.

“They’re placed at higher risk because of the stigma and discrimination they face in society,” she explained.

Such victimization can be manifested in a myriad of ways, including negative experiences at school, discrimination, bullying — reported by nearly half (49%) of those aged 13-17 — and even physical harm. Nearly three in 10 (28%) trans or nonbinary young people said they were physically threatened or harmed because of their gender identity in the past year.

“Those who reported being discriminated against had double the rate of attempting suicide,” said Dr. Nath. “Those who experienced physical threat or harm due to sexual orientation [and] gender identity, [had] three times the rate of attempting suicide,” while those who reported being targeted by bullying, whether electronically or in person, reported three times the rate of attempting suicide, she added.

The increasing hateful rhetoric against the LGBTQ community — particularly reflected in a record-high number of laws and policies restricting the rights of trans youth — is also likely a major contributing factor in the ongoing crisis.

“Much of our efforts to address the public health crisis of suicide among LGBTQ+ young people are made that much harder by the ongoing wave of anti-LGBTQ+ policies pushed by extremist lawmakers across the country,” according to Janson Wu, the organization’s senior director of state advocacy and government affairs.

“An astounding 90% of LGBTQ+ people young said their well-being was negatively impacted by recent politics,” said Dr. Nath. That includes “nearly half of transgender and nonbinary young people [who] said their families considered moving to a different state because of anti-LGBTQ+ politics and laws.”