Forty-five percent of young LGBTQ people seriously considered attempting suicide in 2021, according to a survey published Wednesday by the LGBTQ mental health nonprofit the Trevor Project. It's the third consecutive year that rates of suicidal ideation have increased among LGBTQ youth, the organization said.
"We must recognize that LGBTQ young people face stressors simply for being who they are that their peers never have to worry about," CEO and executive director of the Trevor Project Amit Paley said in a statement.
For the nonprofit's fourth edition of its National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, researchers surveyed nearly 34,000 LGBTQ people between the ages of 13 and 24 in the U.S. between September 20 and December 31, 2021. With 45% of respondents being people of color and 48% being transgender or nonbinary, the annual survey is "one of the most diverse surveys of LGBTQ youth ever conducted," according to the Trevor Project.
Researchers found that 53% of those who seriously considered suicide in the past year were transgender and nonbinary youth, and that 33% were cisgender young people. Fourteen percent of LGBTQ youth attempted suicide last year, including nearly one in five transgender and nonbinary youth, as well as nearly one in 10 cisgender youth.
youth of color considered and attempted suicide at higher rates than their White counterparts, with the highest percentages among Native American, Black and Middle Eastern or North African persons, according to the survey. By sexual orientation, pansexual young people of color, queer and questioning youth reported higher rates of considered and attempted suicide. Transgender males, nonbinary or genderqueer and transgender females considered and attempted suicide at the highest rates.
The Trevor Project found that respondents between the ages of 13 and 17 were much more likely to consider or attempt suicide than those who were 18 to 24 years old.
The organization notes that LGBTQ youth are not "inherently prone to suicide risk because of their sexual orientation or gender identity but rather placed at higher risk because of how they are mistreated and stigmatized in society."
Meanwhile, respondents said recent legislation targeting transgender people introduced and passed across the nation has impacted their mental health. Over the past year, a series of states, including, , , , , and , have enacted laws restricting transgender athletes from competing on sports teams in schools.
More than eight in 10 of the transgender and nonbinary respondents said they have worried about the limitations. And 91% of transgender and nonbinary youth said that they've worried about transgender people being denied access to bathrooms due to state or local laws.
Last month, Kansas lawmaker Cheryl Helmerabout having to share a women's restroom with a "huge" transgender colleague who she referred to as a potential threat to children visiting the statehouse.
Helmer is also co-sponsoring a bill that would ban doctors from providing hormones or performing gender transition surgery for those under the age of 18. The bill comes after officials in Texasto impose similar restrictions on access to .
According to the survey, 93% of transgender and nonbinary youth said they've worried about transgender people being denied access to gender-affirming medical care due to state or local laws. Research scientist Dr. Jonah DeChants of the Trevor Project called the recent legislation "political attacks aimed at transgender and nonbinary youth."
"[They] have not only threatened their access to health care, support systems, and affirming spaces at school, they've also negatively impacted their mental health," he said regarding the laws.
More than half of LGBTQ youth also noted challenges associated with the COVID-19 pandemic as a contributor to negative mental health, including more than three in five transgender and nonbinary youth, as well as nearly half of cisgender youth.
But even as 73% of respondents reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety and 58% reported depression symptoms, access to mental health services struggled to meet demand. The survey found that 60% of respondents who wanted mental health care were unable to get it.
Researchers also found that young LGBTQ people who live in an accepting community reported significantly lower rates of attempting suicide compared to those who do not. Nearly two in five LGBTQ youth reported living in communities that are either somewhat or very unaccepting of LGBTQ people.
Respondents said they feel supported by their parents or caregivers when they welcome their LGBTQ friends or partners, talk respectfully with them about their identity, correctly use their name and pronouns, support their gender expression and educate themselves about LGBTQ people and issues.
"The fact that very simple things — like support from family and friends, seeing LGBTQ representation in media, and having your gender expression and pronouns respected — can have such a positive impact on the mental health of an LGBTQ young person is inspiring, and it should command more attention in conversations around suicide prevention and public debates around LGBTQ inclusion," Paley said.
If you or someone you know is in emotional distress or suicidal crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255).
For more information about mental health care resources and support, The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) HelpLine can be reached Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.–6 p.m. ET, at 1-800-950-NAMI (6264) or email firstname.lastname@example.org.