By Contributor Jade Tyra
Statistically, LGBT+ youth have extremely high rates of mental illness. According to a youth risk behavior survey conducted by the Center for Disease Control, LGBT youth are five times more likely to commit suicide when compared to their heterosexual peers. This data concerning the increased risk of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and self-harm is consistent across many studies.
On top of that, the Family Acceptance Project says that LGBT+ youth who come from highly rejecting families are 8.4 times more likely to have attempted suicide when compared to LGBT+ youth who have accepting families.
These statistics are daunting and horrific– but suicide is only one way in which harassment and discrimination can affect the LGBT+ community. Increased rates of depression and suicide are directly linked to abuse, harassment, discrimination, and homelessness within the community. While self-judgment affects the mental health of LGBT+ youth, judgment from others creates a more harmful impact than some may think.
This is not to say that things aren’t getting better. The difficulties that LGBT+ individuals face have been greatly reduced in places like the United States over the years. However, it is important to recognize that this struggle for equality is far from over. Discrimination and violence towards LGBT+ individuals are still common in the world despite the rising number of countries with anti-discrimination laws. Equality is crucial on both legal and social scales if we are ever going to not only reduce the rates of the aforementioned atrocities but also better our society as a whole.
The most important thing to remember is that no matter your circumstances, you are not alone. There are resources available for the sole purpose of helping LGBT+ youth who struggle with suicidal thoughts. For example, the Trevor Project is a non-profit organization that focuses on helping LGBT youth who are combating suicidal thoughts. The organization provides a 24/7 free call line (1-866-488-7386), text line, and online chat service that connects youth in need with trained counselors. The counselors will provide callers with information about other local resources.
There is also a lifeline that is specifically for providing resources to transgender people. In a world where nearly 65% of transgender individuals report having experienced suicidal thoughts, resources like The Trans Lifeline are more important than ever. The Trans Lifeline (877-565-8860) is a 501(c)(3) that is available to provide support to transgender people in crisis 24/7. Trans Lifeline is the only service in the country where all call operators are transgender. They also provide microgrants that assist trans individuals with name change fees or other small financial necessities. The organization was founded in 2014 and is committed to being a resource that the trans community can rely on for years to come.
The best way to support LGBT+ individuals who are struggling is to listen. If a friend confides in you, encourage them to seek help. Suicidal thoughts are not something to be taken lightly. Being available as a line of support for those around you can be incredibly valuable, no matter your gender or sexuality.
Here are a few ways that you can be an ally to your LGBT+ friends and family…
- Make sure that they know about the resources available to them. Providing your friends with mental health resources, even if they appear to be doing okay, might ensure that they know where to go for support if they are ever in a dark place. I encourage allies to casually send LGBT+ folks the links to these organizations, or even send them this article!
- Let your LGBT friends know that you are there to support them if they are ever having a difficult time with their mental health. Open up safe and comfortable conversations about mental health on the good days so that on the bad days, your friends know that they can confide in you.
- Donate! Organizations like The Trevor Project are looking for donations year-round so that they can continue to provide 24/7 support. It should not always fall to queer people to financially support queer services. In a heteronormative society, allies who have the resources to donate should prioritize financially supporting queer people, organizations, and businesses. Especially those run by LGBT+ people of color!