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Pride Month Brings Opportunity to Emphasize Importance of Suicide Prevention for LGBTQ+ Youth

This post contains a discussion of suicide. If you or someone you know might be struggling with suicidal thoughts, call or text 988 or chat via the website at 988lifeline.org.

Suicide disproportionately impacts LGBTQ+ youth. According to the Improving Quality of Life for LGBT Youth fact sheet (PDF) from the Wisconsin Office of Children’s Mental Health, “LGBT youth are more likely to consider and attempt suicide than cisgender and straight youth.” Additionally, the fact sheet mentions a study from the Trevor Project that found that 40 percent of LGBT youth and over 50 percent of transgender and non-binary youth had experienced serious suicidal ideation. Discrimination and minority stress are thought to be some of the leading risk factors for suicidal ideation and behavior in LGBTQ+ youth. This includes bullying, lack of affirming spaces and social supports, health disparities, and the practice of conversion “therapy”, which is no longer an evidence-based practice but is still often used as a threat to LGBTQ+ youth and is legal in many states (Facts About Suicide Among LGBTQ+ Young People, The Trevor Project).

Knowing the data above is important to understanding the context of the challenges that LGBTQ+ youth face. When talking about suicide and LGBTQ+ populations, it is also important to consider that not all folks who identify as a sexual or gender minority experience suicidal ideation. In fact, many do not. While there may be many reasons as to why someone may or may not experience thoughts of suicide, research has identified a number of protective factors for LGTBQ+ youth including acceptance and support from peers and adults, affirming spaces and events, an affirming environment at school, and policies implemented to protect and support LGBTQ+ youth, such as gender-affirming care and allowing transgender and nonbinary youth to officially change their name and gender marker on legal documents.

We as individuals can take action and show allyship to promote wellbeing in the LGBTQ+ community and reduce the likelihood of suicide attempts and suicide deaths. The Trevor Project’s Allyship in Action lists some of these concrete actions including:

  • Familiarizing yourself with LGBTQ+ terms and identities.
  • Respecting others' pronouns and showing your support by stating or listing your pronouns when applicable.
  • Being a safe space for LGBTQ+ youth and using empathetic listening during discussions.
  • Advocating for LGBTQ+ young people.
  • Educating yourself to avoid placing the burden of education on LGBTQ+ people.

For further resources on suicide prevention, we recommend the following:

  • 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline – 24/7, free, confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for people calling and their loved ones, and best practices for professionals.
  • The Trevor Project – A suicide prevention organization that provides 24/7 crisis support services, research, and advocacy for LGBTQ+ youth.
  • Prevent Suicide Wisconsin – A statewide public-private partnership whose mission is to reduce the number of people who attempt and/or die by suicide in Wisconsin. Mental Health America of Wisconsin coordinates this work.
  • American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) – A national organization that gives those affected by suicide, including suicide-loss survivors, a nationwide community empowered by research, education, and advocacy to take action in suicide prevention.
  • Reporting on suicide prevention – Resource from the AFSP for journalists on how to safely and accurately report on suicide.
  • CIC Postvention Program – The CIC provides comfort, resources, and support to suicide loss survivors in Milwaukee.
  • PRISM Program – A mental wellness resource for LGBTQ+ youth in Wisconsin that is staffed by a team of queer and/or trans Certified Peer Specialists trained to use our lived experiences with mental health and substance use struggles to support others in their recovery journey.
  • Froedtert & MCW Inclusion Health Clinic – Health care clinic at Froedtert & MCW designed to meet the needs of the LGBTQ+ community.