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Survey: LGBTQ Youth Suicide Crisis Made Worse by Conversion Therapy

Young person

The rate of suicidal ideation and attempts among LGBTQ young people in the U.S. is at crisis proportions — and it’s even worse among those who have undergone so-called conversion therapy, according to a new survey from the Trevor Project.

Thirty-nine percent of LGBTQ young people and more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth in the sample seriously considered suicide in the 12 months leading up to survey, the Trevor Project found in its inaugural National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, released today. Nearly one in five LGBTQ youth attempted suicide during that period, and one in three trans and nonbinary youth did.

But among those who had undergone conversion therapy, designed to turn LGBTQ people straight or cisgender, the rates of suicide attempts were twice as high. Forty-two percent of LGBTQ youth who had been through conversion therapy reported a suicide attempt in the previous year, and 57 percent of transgender and nonbinary youth did so.

“Suicide is an ongoing public health crisis for young people in the U.S., especially among LGBTQ youth,” said Amit Paley, CEO and executive director of the Trevor Project, in a press release announcing the findings. “Better understanding the mental health experiences of LGBTQ young people is a major step in addressing their significantly higher risk for attempting suicide. The Trevor Project’s new data underscores the need for LGBTQ-inclusive and life-affirming policies, environments, families, and communities — especially in support of transgender and nonbinary youth. Together, we can ensure that LGBTQ young people know their lives have value, and that they are heard, loved, and never alone.”

The survey is the largest conducted to date on the mental health of LGBTQ young people. It included nearly 35,000 LGBTQ respondents between the ages of 13 and 24 from every state in the U.S. It was conducted through an online platform between February 2 and September 30 of last year.

The survey also found higher rates of suicide attempts among respondents who had experienced discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Twenty-three percent of those who had experienced sexual orientation discrimination reported a suicide attempt in the previous 12 months, compared to 11 percent of those who had not encountered such discrimination. Thirty-three percent of those who had experienced gender identity discrimination reported a suicide attempt, compared to 17 percent of those who had not. Rates were also higher among young people who had been physically threatened and abused, and among trans and nonbinary youth who had been prevented from using restrooms corresponding with their gender identity.

Among other findings were that 76 percent of respondents felt that recent political events affected their mental health and sense of self, and that while many LGBTQ young people are out to their peers and receive support from them, acceptance is less common for trans youth than for cisgender LGBQ youth.

“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,” Paley added. “That is why it is so important that we work tirelessly to let LGBTQ youth know that they are beautiful as they are, that they are deserving of respect, and that they are not alone.”

“We believe this research can save lives,” added Amy Green, drector of research for the Trevor Project. “This data will help the Trevor Project to continue to improve and expand our lifesaving services for LGBTQ youth. It will also provide our team on the ground in legislatures across the country data they need to support what we know to be dangers associated with conversion therapy and other forms of discrimination and victimization. This report also highlights the need for increased education and training to prepare support networks to best help LGBTQ who experience thoughts of suicide. We plan to leverage these findings to help advocate for LGBTQ youth for years to come.”

The Trevor Project, the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people, offers phone, text, and chat lines and a social networking site for youth in crisis. It also engages in education, advocacy, and research. Through its “50 Bills 50 States” campaign, it is attempting to keep young people from being subjected to conversion therapy. To date, 18 states, the District of Columbia, and many cities have passed laws barring licensed therapists from subjecting minors to the practice, which every major medical and mental health organization considers ineffective and harmful. Numerous other LGBTQ and public health organizations are campaigning against conversion therapy as well.

Read the full survey here.

If you are a trans or gender-nonconforming person considering suicide, Trans Lifeline can be reached at (877) 565-8860. LGBTQ youth (ages 24 and younger) can reach the Trevor Project Lifeline at (866) 488-7386. You can also access chat services at TheTrevorProject.org/Help or text START to 678678. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 can be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities.

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