Life

New Survey Finds Suicide Is a Major Risk for LGBTQ Youth

The Trevor Project report draws from the largest ever look at the demographic’s mental health.

A lesbian couple holds hands during a pride parade
A couple holds hands during a pride parade.
David Silverman/Getty Images

Suicide rates in the United States have skyrocketed over the past two decades, but a new report from the Trevor Project—the world’s largest suicide prevention organization for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer youth—suggests the mental health crisis among those in the LGBTQ community is particularly severe.

The findings in the organization’s National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health are alarming and offer a picture of the difficulties young LGBTQ people face both at home and in school. The key takeaway from the report confirms prior research suggesting that LGBTQ youth are far more likely than their straight and cisgender peers to consider and attempt suicide.

The report found that nearly 1 in 5 of all LGBTQ teenagers and young adults surveyed has attempted suicide in the past year, while nearly 1 in 3 transgender and non-binary youth attempted to take their lives. By comparison, a separate 2017 survey found that about 7 percent of youth overall in grades 9-12 reported that they had made at least one suicide attempt in the past year.

About 40 percent of LGBTQ youth surveyed in the Trevor Project report “seriously considered” attempting suicide in the past 12 months. For transgender and non-binary youth in particular, more than half seriously considered it.

The reasons for these staggering numbers are nothing new: LGBTQ people face discrimination, bullying, isolation, and a lack of familial support, contributing to negative mental health concerns.

“It’s important to note that LGBTQ youth are not at higher risk of suicide because of their sexual orientation or gender identity—they are at a higher risk because they face harmful rejection and discrimination from friends, families, and communities that can make them feel their lives are worth less than their straight or cisgender peers,” said Amit Paley, the Trevor Project’s CEO and executive director.

LGBTQ youth who have experienced conversion therapy—a debunked and dangerous method of trying to convince someone to change their sexual orientation or gender identity—were twice as likely to attempt suicide compared to those who did not. Conversion therapy is still legal in 32 states despite numerous medical associations and studies that have discredited the practice. Late last month, Colorado became the 18th state to ban the practice.

Politics and discrimination also contributed to higher rates of attempted suicide. Those who reported being discriminated against or physically threatened were twice as likely to attempt suicide. And 3 out of 4 of those surveyed said recent politics have impacted their mental health.

The report concluded the largest survey ever conducted on the mental health of LGBTQ youth. The organization surveyed nearly 35,000 LGBTQ youth respondents between the ages of 13 and 24 from every state in the United States.

“This report also highlights the need for increased education and training to prepare support networks to best help LGBTQ who experience thoughts of suicide,” said Amy Green, the Trevor Project’s director of research. “We plan to leverage these findings to help advocate for LGBTQ youth for years to come.”