Whether due to fear of losing access to gender-affirming medical care, facing harassment in school, or family rejection, LGBTQ+ young people in this country are being forced to constantly grapple with various forms of violence and erasure.
And according to recent studies from places like the Trevor Project and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it’s taking a dangerous toll on their mental health:
– 45% of LGBTQ+ youth have seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year.
– They are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their heterosexual peers.
– One in five transgender and nonbinary youth have attempted suicide.
Even those who may not have had thoughts of suicide are struggling daily with feelings of despair and darkness. About 73% reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety, while 58% reported symptoms of depression. Almost 70% said they felt “persistently sad and hopeless.”
Unfortunately for more than half of those surveyed, getting professional help just wasn’t an option. These young LGBTQ+ individuals wanted to seek mental health care, but ultimately didn’t because they said they were too afraid to do so — afraid of obtaining their parents’ permission, afraid of being outed, afraid of being denied access.
So, how can you help?
While we at Lambda Legal continue to combat cruel, anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in the courtrooms, there are other, more simple ways to lift up LGBTQ+ young people in our communities. Centering and affirming their humanity is the key.
Because when LGBTQ+ youth are allowed to safely be their true, authentic selves, it has a clear, proven and positive impact on their mental health. When LGBTQ+ youth have access to community and resources that support, see, and validate their identity, studies show their lives are positively impacted.
Affirmation is suicide prevention.
Below, find specific ways that schools, family, friends, and others can affirm LGBTQ+ youth during Suicide Prevention Month and every single day after.
Family and friends can affirm LGBTQ+ youth by:
- Using their name and pronouns correctly.
- Having respectful conversations with them about their identity.
- Welcoming their LGBTQ+ friends and partners.
- Educating themselves on LGBTQ+ history and issues.
- Supporting the way they choose to express their gender.
School administrators can affirm LGBTQ+ youth by:
- Enforcing anti-bullying and anti-harassment policies.
- Removing discriminatory bathroom and dress code policies.
- Educating staff on inclusivity and LGBTQ+ issues.
- Teaching a curriculum that includes LGBTQ+ history.
- Creating Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs), or similar clubs, on campus.