LGBTQ Agenda: Queer youth mental health worsened by discrimination, violence according to survey

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Tuesday May 9, 2023
Share this Post:
Casey Pick with The Trevor Project, talked about the agency's 2023 National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People. Photo: Courtesy Pick's LinkedIn page
Casey Pick with The Trevor Project, talked about the agency's 2023 National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People. Photo: Courtesy Pick's LinkedIn page

Discrimination, physical harm, and conversion therapy correspond to suicide risk, the results of a Trevor Project survey of tens of thousands of LGBTQ young people show.

"The findings from our 2023 U.S. National Survey support previous findings that demonstrate LGBTQ young people are at significantly higher odds of suicide risk compared to their peers," Casey Pick, a lesbian who is director of law and policy at The Trevor Project, stated to the Bay Area Reporter. "It's important to understand that LGBTQ youth are not inherently prone to suicide risk, but rather, they are placed at higher risk because of how they are mistreated in society."

The 2023 U.S. National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People was taken between September and December 2022, and the results were released May 1. The report draws from a sample size of 28,524 LGBTQ young people, aged 13-24.

Half of LGBTQ people ages 13-17 — 46% — considered suicide in the last year and 17% attempted suicide, according to the report. Among those ages 18-24, 34% considered suicide and 9% attempted suicide, the report stated.

The risk was highest for trans youth — 56% of trans boys and men and 48% of trans girls and women considered suicide and 23% and 16% attempted, respectively, according to the report. Among gay men that figure was 34% and 11%, respectively, among lesbians 40% and 13%, and among bisexuals 38% and 12%.

Eighteen percent of those who "felt discriminated against due to their sexual orientation or gender identity in the past year" attempted suicide compared to 7% of those who did not, according to the report.

Conversion therapy

Regarding conversion therapy, which is the widely debunked practice of attempting to change someone's sexual orientation or gender identity, most of those surveyed in the report, 85%, did not experience it. But the discredited therapy had an effect on those who did or were threatened with it. Twenty-eight percent of those who were threatened with conversion therapy and 28% of those who were subjected to it attempted suicide. Only 11% of those not subjected to or threatened with conversion therapy attempted suicide, according to the report.

Physical harm is also a risk factor. Of those who weren't threatened or physically harmed due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, 9% attempted suicide. Among those who were that figure went up to 27%, the report showed.

Fifty-four percent of LGBTQ young people experienced depression and 67% experienced anxiety, the survey found.

"These new data share further insight into the reality that the hostile political climate is taking a toll on the mental health of LGBTQ young people," Pick stated. "For example, nearly one in three LGBTQ young people said their mental health was poor most of the time or always due to anti-LGBTQ policies and legislation."

Acceptance is greater, but issues remain

But in many ways LGBTQ acceptance is greater than it was in the past. Pew Research found last year that 61% of Americans support same-sex marriage rights including pluralities or majorities in all religious groups except white, evangelical Protestants. Among Republicans, 43% viewed same-sex marriage positively and 55% viewed it negatively.

However, just last week the Washington Post reported that trans people don't necessarily see the same acceptance — 57% of Americans say gender is determined at birth, the Post found, 70% are against puberty blockers for young teens, and 60% are opposed for older teens.

When asked why young people's mental health has not improved in spite of the legal and societal advances the LGBTQ community has made, Pick stated that the recent rhetoric and anti-LGBTQ legislation is a backlash to that.

"The recent onslaught of anti-LGBTQ and particularly anti-trans legislation can be seen as backlash against societal attitudes shifting toward acceptance and understanding of LGBTQ people," Pick stated. "Unfortunately, many people are unfamiliar with gender identity, and we have seen significant fearmongering and misinformation spread that capitalizes on that lack of understanding.

"As we have seen in previous debates, as more Americans come to know and understand transgender people, acceptance can often increase," Pick added.

The Post found 43% of cisgender adults know a trans person, not counting acquaintances.

In addition to not facing outright discrimination and violence, having allies is crucial for better mental health outcomes.

"These findings illustrate that LGBTQ young people report lower rates of attempting suicide when they have access to affirming spaces — and they want the people in their lives to learn more about how to support them and the basics of LGBTQ identities," Pick stated.

Pick added that queer young people seek help from people they know.

"LGBTQ young people have shared that it would be especially helpful for people in their lives to know more about support and acceptance, gender identity, sexual orientation, and pronouns," Pick stated. "Creating safe, affirming spaces for LGBTQ young people at school is especially important, as young people spend so much of their time at school, and educating all young people, including cisgender, heterosexual students, about LGBTQ identities and related topics is crucial for dispelling misinformation and stereotypes about the LGBTQ community."

The Trevor Project, headquartered in West Hollywood, California, was founded in 1998 and focuses on suicide prevention. On its website () people can text or call a counselor for free if they are considering harming themselves.

If you are considering self-harm, you can call San Francisco Suicide Prevention 24/7 at 415- 781-0500, or call the national suicide and crisis hotline, 988. If you need help regarding HIV issues you can call SF Suicide Prevention's HIV Nightline at 415-434-2437.

LGBTQ Agenda is an online column that appears weekly. Got a tip on queer news? Contact John Ferrannini at [email protected]

The State of California offers help for victims or witnesses to a hate crime or hate incident. This resource is supported in whole or in part by funding provided by the State of California, administered by the California State Library in partnership with the California Department of Social Services and the California Commission on Asian and Pacific Islander American Affairs as part of the Stop the Hate program. To report a hate incident or hate crime and get support, go to CA vs Hate.

Help keep the Bay Area Reporter going in these tough times. To support local, independent, LGBTQ journalism, consider becoming a BAR member.