Suicide is not only a major public health crisis in the U.S., it is one that disproportionately impacts the LGBTQ community, and especially LGBTQ youth. In fact, 30% of young adults who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual or Queer have attempted suicide in their lifetimes, and transgender youth and non-binary youth are even more likely to have reported a suicide attempt in the past year compared to their LGBQ cisgender peers. Some groups of LGBTQ youth are at potentially higher risk for suicide. For example, American Indian/Native Alaskan LGBTQ youth are significantly more likely to attempt suicide than all other racial groups–almost a third reported a suicide attempt in the past year. More research on suicide and intersectionally is needed.
The power to prevent youth suicide is in adults’ hands. LGBTQ youth who have at least one accepting adult in their life were 40% less likely to report a suicide attempt over a twelve month period. With 2021 being on track to be the worst year for anti-trans legislation since these issues have been tracked, we must all be concerned with the message these transphobic and anti-LGBTQ proposals send youth. Acceptance, love, and joy are public health interventions, and interventions that carry this message must be prioritized for LGBTQ youth. At the systemic level, additional opportunities abound to make Medicaid work for suicide prevention, especially for LGBTQ youth. While many state Medicaid programs already fund some prevention services, there is much more that state Medicaid programs can do to ensure that low-income LGBTQ+ youth have access to these vital services. First, actions that improve access to Medicaid, such as Medicaid expansion, help individuals receive a diagnosis and receive mental health preventative care. Without coverage, individuals are more likely to have to wait until they are in crisis to receive help. Second, investing in specific Medicaid services, such as peer support services and mobile crisis services, can be a critical component of suicide prevention. Advocates should make sure that Medicaid-funded peer support services are sufficiently funded to offer peer workers an adequate wage, and are offered in a way that is culturally and linguistically competent to LGBTQ youth. Third, advocates should work with their state Medicaid agencies to fund and adapt existing evidence-based approaches to meet the needs of LGBTQ youth. Such services and investment hold promise for preventing LGBTQ youth suicide, but they must be coupled with an equal committment to making services culturally and linguistically appropriate and affirming.
Adults have a responsibility to protect youth. Take action now to prevent youth suicide and affirm LGBTQ youth.
If you need assistance, you can reach out to:
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is a national network of local crisis centers that provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Call 1-800-273-8255.
- Crisis Text Line is a texting service for emotional crisis support. To speak with a trained listener, text HELLO to 741741. It is free, available 24/7, and confidential.
- The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning youth. They offer phone, text, and chat options for youth that need immediate support.
*** The illustration used in NHeLP’s Facebook, Twitter and webpage should be credited as “Jonathan Soren Davidson for Disabled And Here.” When possible, please link back to the Disabled And Here project page.***
ALT – TEXT: Three Black friends sit in comfortable chairs and supportive recliners during an evening conversation. In the middle, a friend with narcolepsy falls asleep smiling while clouds drift behind her head. Her girlfriend sits to the left, holding her hand while talking to another sleepy friend across the table. This friend cups hot cocoa to their chest. Everyone is dressed in colorful t-shirts and there is cozy, warm light throughout the room.