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LGBTQ Mental Health: Strong Support System Helps Reduce Suicide Risk

Cardinal Innovations Healthcare — September 16, 2019 — 3 min read
Members of the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Questioning) community are more likely to experience mental illness and are at a greater risk for suicide than non-LGBTQ individuals, but having a strong support system can make a difference, experts say.

Lesbian and gay youth face the greatest risk. They are five times more likely to have attempted suicide as non-LGBTQ youth, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), but all groups and ages are affected:
  • 40% of transgender people report having made a suicide attempt (92 percent of those attempted suicide before the age of 25)
  • Individuals who identify as LGBTQ are twice as likely as non-LGBTQ people to have a mental health disorder in their lifetime 
  • LGBTQ individuals are 2.5 times more likely to experience depression, anxiety and substance misuse compared to non-LGBTQ individuals
  • Approximately 31% of LGBTQ older adults report depressive symptoms and 39% report serious thoughts of taking their own lives
One factor that affects young LGBTQ individuals is bullying at school. According to the GLSEN 2017 National School Climate Survey, LGBTQ youth are more than twice as likely as their peers to say they have been verbally harassed and called names at school. They are also twice as likely as their peers to say they have been physically assaulted, kicked or shoved at school. And they are twice as likely as their peers to say they’ve been excluded by their peers for being different.

Each time a member of the LGBTQ community is physically or verbally abused, the likelihood of self-harming behavior increases by 2.5 times on average, according to the American Journal of Public Health.

But there is hope. For example, when transgender youth are allowed to use the name and pronouns they identify with, their risk of depression and suicide drops significantly, according to the Journal of Adolescent Health, with:
  • 65% fewer suicide attempts
  • 71% fewer symptoms of depression
  • A 34% decrease in thoughts about suicide
Transgender youth also reported greater life satisfaction, higher self-esteem and fewer housing problems (33% of all homeless youth identify as LGBTQ).

Knowing what to look for can help prevent suicide. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, some common signs and symptoms are:
  • Talk – The person at risk may talk about taking their own life, feeling hopeless, having no reason to live, being a burden to others, feeling trapped, experiencing unbearable pain
  • Behavior – Behaviors that may signal risk, especially if related to a painful event, loss or change include increased use of alcohol or drugs, looking for a way to end their lives (searching online for methods), withdrawing from activities, isolating from family and friends, sleeping too much or too little, visiting or calling people to say goodbye, giving away prized possessions, aggression, fatigue
  • Mood – People considering suicide may display symptoms of depression, anxiety, loss of interest, irritability, humiliation/shame, agitation/anger, relief/sudden improvement
Are you in a crisis?
If you or a loved one is in a crisis situation, call the Cardinal Innovations Healthcare crisis line at 1-800-939-5911. The line is open 24/7, and we will pick up the phone within 30 seconds.

You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.
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