The Advocate July/Aug 2022
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American Indian/Alaskan Native LGBTQ+ Youth Face High Suicide Risk

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November is Native American Heritage Month, and the Trevor Project has released a special research brief detailing mental health and suicide risk among American Indian/Alaskan Native youth.

American Indian and Alaskan Native LGBTQ+ youth are 2.5 more likely to report a suicide attempt within the past year compared to their LGBTQ+ peers. Additionally, when these youth reported LGBTQ-based victimization, they’re at more than 3 times the risk for attempting suicide, and when they report LGBTQ-based discrimination, they’re at more than 2.5 the risk.

Almost half (49 percent) of AI/AN LGBTQ+ youth have reported being physically harmed or threatened because they are LGBTQ+, compared to 31 percent of non-AI/AN LGBTQ+ youth.

Furthermore, 50 percent of American Indian/Alaskan Native LGBTQ+ youth experience housing instability, compared to 28 percent of non-AI/AN LGBTQ+ youth, 18 percent experience food insecurity compared to 7 percent of other LGBTQ+ youth, and 14 percent are in foster care, compared to 4 percent of other LGBTQ+ youth.

“It is apparent that exposure to both LGBTQ-based stigma and racism has compounding effects and places American Indian/Alaskan Native youth who are Two-Spirit/LGBTQ at greater risk for suicide,” said Amy Green, Ph.D., Director of Research at the Trevor Project in a statement. “Further, the disproportionality in reports of foster care, housing instability, and food insecurity highlights the devastating impact of historical oppression and trauma on American Indian/Alaskan Native.”

But there is some good news. The report shows that if youth have support from family and at schools, their suicide risk is reduced by nearly 60 percent.

The study also found that half of AI/AN LGBTQ+ youth are trans, nonbinary, or questioning their gender, with 20 percent identify as Two-Spirit.

Green said that there’s work to be done. “There is an urgent need to de-colonize systems that perpetuate the oppression of American Indian/Alaskan Native people,” she said. As long as the systems of oppression that harm American Indian and Alaskan Native people are in place, mental health cannot improve. “The Trevor Project will continue to advocate for intersectional programs and practices and increased investment in suicide prevention initiatives and research that specifically consider the unique needs of American Indian/Alaskan Native Youth.”

If you or someone you know is experiencing suicidal thoughts, you can call the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386. If you can’t talk, you can chat online, or text START to 678-678.

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