Suicide among LGBT Youth

By Ryan S.

In the United States, suicide is the second leading cause of death for those between the ages of 10 and 24 as well as school-aged children between the ages of 12 and 18. Following only homicide, suicide accounts for roughly 11 percent of all deaths in that age range. And though there is a high number of deaths by suicide, the number of people that consider and attempt suicide is much higher. This means that for every successful suicide, there are 12 unsuccessful attempts. And though there only 8 percent of youth reported attempting suicide in 2013, 17 percent seriously considered doing so. This equates to about one in every six students considering suicide in a given year.

Though these rates seem high, they drastically increase once we examine sexual and gender minorities specifically. There are disparities based on how teens identify, but when combining all sexual and gender minority youth, the percentage of teens attempting suicide jumps from 8 to just over 30 percent. This means that LGBT youth are almost 4 times as likely as a heterosexual peer to attempt suicide. Teens that are questioning are about twice as likely to attempt suicide. Bisexual girls have the highest reported rate of ideation (42 percent), making a plan(~35 percent), and going through with an attempt(30 percent) among non-heterosexual adolescents. However, transgender youth have the highest rate of suicide contemplation of all sexual and gender minorities at about 50 percent.

We can infer that sexual and gender minorities have much higher rates of suicide ideation and attempts than their heterosexual counterparts because of the harassment that they face. Youth that are openly homosexual often face higher levels of harassment because of their sexual orientation. One survey showed that 82 percent of LGB adolescents had faced some kind of bullying because of their sexual orientation in the last year. 64 percent also stated that they felt unsafe in the school because of this harassment. For those that are victimized, it’s estimated that every instance of bullying increases the likelihood of self-harm by 2.5 times on average. LGB youth that come from families who reject them because of their sexual orientation are also about 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide than youth that come from accepting families.

Though risk of suicide is found in all groups of people, it disproportionately affects the LGBT community. Until we create a more accepting society, these especially high rates of suicide among LGBT youth will remain high. Laws towards equality can only go so far, so future strides towards equality and acceptance need to be put in place socially. Only then will these high rates of suicide — as well as depression and anxiety that accompany constant harassment — decline.


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