September 12, 2016
1 min read

Review calls for increased efforts in suicide prevention among LGBTQ youth

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Suicide prevention interventions for sexual and gender minority youth are lacking, despite higher rates of suicidal thoughts and behaviors among this population.

“Rates of suicide attempts among [sexual and gender minority] youth reported in the past 12 months are estimated at 26%–37%, relative to 8% of all youth. Suicidal ideation also affects [sexual and gender minority] youth disproportionately with the highest rates being reported for transgender youth,” Kimberly H. McManama O’Brien, PhD, of Simmons School of Social Work, Boston, and colleagues wrote. “[Sexual and gender minority] youth are also at higher risk for experiencing depression, hopelessness, and substance use, and are more likely to be homeless, relative to their heterosexual and/or cisgender peers, which in themselves are risk factors for suicide.”

Interventions for suicidal thoughts and behaviors have not been thoroughly assessed in sexual and gender minority youth, according to researchers.

However, recent research suggests benefits of interventions focusing on family support and acceptance. Study findings showed transgender children who were supported in their gender identity had developmentally normative levels of depression and small increases in anxiety.

Despite these recent revelations, research on suicide prevention among sexual and gender minority youth is minimal and may contribute to the lack of interventions for the population.

In light of this, McManama O’Brien and colleagues suggest research methodologies be adapted to unique needs of sexual and gender minority youth at risk for suicide.

“One’s racial, ethnic, and religious minority status is usually shared with one's parents who can buffer the impact of related stigma and discrimination. [Sexual and gender minority] status, however, usually is not shared with parents and is often concealed from them,” William Byne, MD, PhD, editor-in-chief of LGBT Health, said in a press release. “Further, families may contribute to, rather than buffer against, [sexual and gender minority]-related stress. The article by Dr. O’Brien and colleagues is on target in pointing out the critical need for an intersectional approach to suicide prevention research in [sexual and gender minority] youth with a focus on building family support.” – by Amanda Oldt

Disclosure: The researchers report no relevant financial disclosures.