LGBTQ+ include individuals who have a sexual orientation (i.e., enduring set of physical and emotional attractions) toward members of the same-sex (e.g., lesbian, gay, bisexual) and individuals with a gender identity (i.e., enduring internal sense of being a man, a woman, or neither) which is different than their sex assigned at birth (American Psychological Association, 2008). The term LGBTQ+ also encompasses identities which transcend traditional binary views of romantic attraction (e.g., asexual, polyamorous, pansexual, etc.) and gender (e.g., gender-queer, bigender, agender, etc.), and identities represented by the queer plus (i.e., Q+) portion of the acronym (Bornstein, 1998; Wilchins, 2002).
LGBTQ+ individuals make up an estimated 4% of the US population and 2% of North Dakota’s population (Gates, 2011). Despite medical and psychological research demonstrating the normalcy of these identities and expression (American Psychological Association et al., 2015; Swaab & Garcia-Falgueras, 2009); the LGBTQ+ community experiences higher rates of discrimination than the general public.
The LGBTQ+ population experiences higher rates of suicide than most other populations. Existing empirical literature indicates that LGB youth are 3.4 times more likely to make a suicide attempt than their non-LGBTQ+ peers. Transgender individuals are 10 times more likely to make a suicide attempt than the general population (Clements-Nolle, Marx, & Katz, 2006; Grossman & D’augelli, 2006; Haas, Rodgers, & Herman, 2014). Even more disturbing, homeless LGBTQ+ youth (40% of homeless population) report incredibly high rates of suicide attempts (62%) when compared with their straight peers (29%; (Haas et al., 2010).
Ways to Increase Protective Factors
- Implement training for staff to effectively serve LGBTQ youth by including recognition and response to warning signs for suicide.
- Include information about higher rates of suicidal behavior in LGBTQ youth in health promotion materials.
- Assess and ensure that youth services and providers are inclusive, responsive to, and affirming the needs of LGBTQ youth.
- Develop peer-based support programs.
- Include the topic of coping with stress and discrimination and integrate specific activities for LGBTQ youth.
- Support staff advocacy for LGBTQ youth.
- Make accurate information about LGBTQ issues and resources easily available.
- Institute, enforce and keep up-to-date non-discrimination and non-harassment policies for all youth.
- Implement confidentiality policies that are clear, comprehensive and explicit.
- Assume that clients or students could be any sexual orientation or gender identity and respond accordingly.
Suicide Warning Signs and Risk Factors
Any statements or behaviors suggesting suicidal thoughts or actions should be taken seriously. Ask directly about suicide and dial 7-800-273-TALK for immediate assistance from local crisis workers.
- Agression and volitile actions
- Volatile mood swings or sudden changes in their personality
- A sudden deterioration in their personal appearance
- Increased risk-taking behavior
- Eating disorders
- Gender or sexual orientation issues
- Family chaos
- History of physical or sexual abuse
- Loss and Breakups
- Recent "coming out" or disclosure as LGBTQ+ with a negative outcome
- Threatening to hurt or kill him/herself, or talking of wanting to hurt or kill him/herself
- Looking for ways to kill him/herself by seeking access to firearms, available pills or other means
- Talking or writing about death, dying or suicide, when these actions are out of the ordinary for the person
Information adapted from the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, American Association of Suicidology.