According to findings by the Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization that works on preventing suicide among LGBTQ+ youth in America; gay, lesbian and bisexual adults between 18–25 years old were four times more likely than their straight counterparts to report planned or attempted suicide. Most experts do suspect that non-binary young adults and transgender youth are also at risk, although the data based on gender identity is not yet fully collected.
Amy Green, the Trevor Project’s research director, claimed that they had made progress although the progress was not enough. To help in reducing discrimination, stigma or rejection, Amy Green did recommend championing LGBTQ+ youth using the following strategies.
Be an adult who is trusted, loves, and accepts LGBTQ+ youth
Trevor Project research reveals that LGBTQ+ youth were 40% less likely to attempt suicide in the past year when one adult accepted them. Other research has linked family acceptance to positive health benefits such as social support, increased self-esteem, protection against suicidal ideation, and depression.
Although family support and adult friendship is essential, Amy Green argues that reducing suicidal behavior and thinking amongst LGBTQ+ youth will need a comprehensive approach past individual relationships.
Make schools a place where LGBTQ+ youth are protected from discrimination
The climate at school can be very hostile for LGBTQ+ youth. It explains why Amy Green recommends schools to adopt programs that help affirm LGBTQ+ youth — such as gender and sexual alliances. Affirming gender identity, students’ sexuality, getting safer spaces where the students will be able to receive support, and offering training for the staff on how to come up with an environment that is safe for all the students is key.
According to Green, very few schools are in a position of implementing all the recommended strategies, since they lack funding and staff resources. The research also reveals that LGBTQ+ students are not only the people to benefit from policies meant to support them.
Ensure LGBTQ+ youth get medical care that affirms their identity
Despite increasing acceptance and awareness in pop culture, non-binary and transgender youth remain targets of stigmatizing legislation. Apart from the so-called bathroom bills which prevent transgender individuals from using the restroom that matches their gender identity, a good number of legislatures have managed to introduce measures to help ban surgeries and hormone therapy for transgender youth.
According to the research, receiving medical care will help affirm transgender youth’s identity and can be lifesaving to the transgender youth. The studies also revealed that transgender youth who got puberty-blocking hormones during adolescence when compared to those who did not did record a reduction in suicide risk as grown-ups.
Come up with comprehensive resources and services for homeless LGBTQ+ youth
LGBTQ+ youth become homeless at disproportionate rates as a result of either rejection from their families or conflict within their families. However, when they seek housing services, they usually encounter harassment, bias and discrimination that can deepen their despair. The LGBTQ+ youth who are going through homelessness at times attempt to kill themselves more than the cisgender and heterosexual youth in the same situation.
LGBTQ+ youth experience being abused at shelters, turned away from the shelters, or being sexually assaulted or harassed by residents or shelter staff. Amy Green says that they need to ensure the services they have are inclusive of LGBTQ+ identities and are thoughtful on how the services play out.
Focus on community-led solutions
LGBTQ+ youth usually undergo discrimination compounded by other aspects of their identity, including class, race, religion, ethnicity and where they reside. Amy Green suggests coming up with suicide prevention services specifically for youth communities instead of using intervention developed by an academic that never reflects the needs of locals. It means working to implement solutions that have been designed by the community members together with their friends.
Since suicide is a bit complex and caused by different factors, Green argues that the disparity between LGBTQ+ and heterosexual, cisgender youth can always be traced in part. Limiting the experience through policies and practices that are meaningful in addition to personal acceptance is essential in helping prevent suicide amongst LGBTQ+ youth.
About the Author:
Judy Bokao is 20 years old and was born in Ethiopia but relocated to Nairobi two years ago. She is passionate about everyone having equal rights and is also big on conservation and speaking up for our planet. Judy loves reading and photography and is just a free-spirited young lady trying to grow into a woman her mom can be proud of.