LGBT youth at greater risk for suicide

August 23, 2018 | by Fran Zucco BSN, RN-BC
Categories: Healthy Driven Minds

No one knows what causes a person to be straight or gay. What is clear though is that people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning (LGBTQ) continue to face discrimination today. The consequences of a homophobic culture can be devastating for kids.

LGBT youth are more likely than their heterosexual peers to experience negative health and life outcomes, says the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Negative attitudes toward LGBT youth can put them at risk for bullying, teasing, harassment and physical assault. Also, LGBT youth are almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to heterosexual youth.

How can we change this? Factors that protect against suicide in young people include having a positive relationship with one or more parent, feeling positively connected to and included in school settings, and feeling involved in a group of peers.

Parents play a critical role in protecting their adolescent’s mental and physical health. Young people whose parents are rejecting of their LGBT identity are more likely to experience depression and attempt suicide.

In an American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) study, LGBT young adults who reported high levels of family rejection during adolescence were 5.9 times more likely to report high levels of depression and 8.4 times more likely to report having attempted suicide. They were also 3.4 times more likely to use illegal drugs.

LGBTQ youth need parents who respect, support and accept them. What can you do as a parent to help your kid cope with the challenges of being a LGBT teen?

Follow these CDC research-based steps to support the health and well-being of your teen:

  • Talk and listen. Have honest and open conversations. When your teen is ready, brainstorm about how and when to talk with others about their sexual orientation. Talk about how to avoid risky behavior and unsafe situations.
  • Provide support. Come to terms with how you feel about your teen’s sexual orientation and respond calmly and respectfully.
  • Stay involved. Include your teen in family events and activities. Make an effort to know your teen’s friends and romantic partners and know what your teen is doing.
  • Be proactive. Watch for warning signs that your teen is being bullied, and take immediate action. If you think your teen is depressed or needs other mental health support, speak with a school counselor, psychologist, or other health professional. Research LGBT organizations and online resources to support your teen.

Family acceptance helps to promote self-esteem and protect the overall health of LGBT youth.

Schools can also promote a healthy environment for all youth. Find out what kind of support and services are in place at your teen’s school, including LGBT support groups.

The Trevor Project is a national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBT young people ages 13-24.

If you or someone you care about needs help, don’t hesitate to reach out. Get 24-7 confidential support for you or others in crisis or distress through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, 800-273-8255.

Another resource: Linden Oaks Behavioral Health Hospital’s 24-hour Help Line, 630-305-5027.

Linden Oaks Behavioral Health specializes in treating adolescents. Find out how we can help.

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