Suicide has become one of the leading causes of death among adolescents in the United States. Among LGBTQIA+ teens, the risk of suicide is even higher than in their cisgender and heterosexual peers. Yet there is evidence that demonstrates how much the risk of suicide drops when these adolescents receive basic support and acceptance. As a provider of addiction recovery and mental health care for adolescent clients, your support can help lower your clients’ risk of suicide.
Higher Suicide Risks in the LGBTQIA+ Community
Some studies show that members of the LGBTQIA+ community are anywhere from two to three times more likely to commit suicide than their cisgender or heterosexual peers, and some studies say suicide risk is up to three to six times more likely. These figures are staggering, and much research is being conducted to determine how to address this huge disparity.
While figures vary from age group to age group and within various populations, the overall picture is very bleak. Clearly, the queer population is being tremendously underserved when it comes to addressing their mental health appropriately, and we must work harder to close the gap immediately and help save lives.
An LGBTQIA+ Identity Crisis
Inclusion. Acceptance. Validation. Too often, these are missing in the lives of queer teens. It is not enough that they struggle with their own gender identities and sexual orientation based on society’s expectations of them. They also struggle to find external validation, acceptance, and inclusion from family, friends, teachers, coaches, and others in their lives when they express their gender or sexual orientation.
This type of identity crisis creates a source of significant pain and suffering for LGBTQIA+ children that can lead to depression, anxiety, other mental health diagnoses, and even suicide. Helping them not only identify and accept their own identities but also raising awareness within their families, friends, and communities of the importance of offering unconditional love and acceptance can lead to a powerful change in mental wellness for queer adolescents.
Factors That Can Lower Risk of Suicide
According to an article on Behavioral Health for LGBTQ+ youth, creating safe and welcoming environments, resources, and services for these teens can greatly improve the outcome of their mental health. In fact, simple acts of acceptance and affirmation can actually save lives.
The article cited a 2021 Trevor Project National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health that demonstrated lower suicide attempts for queer youth who:
- Were able to change names and/or gender on legal documents
- Had access to spaces that affirmed their sexual orientation and gender identity
- Had their pronouns respected by the people with whom they lived
In fact, for transgender and nonbinary youth whose pronouns were respected by all of the people they lived with, suicide attempts were half the rate of their peers who did not have their pronouns respected by anyone they lived with.
How Your Support of LGBTQIA+ Clients Saves Lives
While you, as a provider of addiction recovery and mental health care for adolescents, cannot control the environments your clients live in, your support can still make a difference. Every person who supports and affirms queer youth helps to lower their risk for suicide. Having an adult that respects and acknowledges their identity and orientation goes a long way toward helping their mental health.
Honoring a client’s chosen name, gender, and pronouns is a sign of basic respect and affirmation in a world that can feel hostile and confusing for LGBTQIA+ teens. With your support, they can build confidence and self-esteem and learn how to safely advocate for themselves to help expand the number of people in their lives who love and affirm them for who they are. Even though you do not have control over others, you can inspire your clients to have the strength to manage what they have control over.
Helping Your Clients Build Welcoming Environments
In addition to your therapeutic endeavors to help their mental wellness, you can also help to provide resources for your clients, such as The Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization founded to prevent suicide amongst LGBTQIA+ youth. Their website helps provide information and counseling and connects them with other LGBTQIA+ teens, and it includes a built-in emergency safeguard that allows them to quickly exit and clear their browser for their safety and protection.
You can help your client find and build a support network of people in their life who are safe and who affirm and accept their identity and will support them as well. Each person they can add to their environment adds security against attempted suicide. Helping them create safer, more welcoming communities will improve their mental health and could potentially save their lives.
Adolescents in the LGBTQIA+ community are at significantly higher risk of suicide than their cisgender and heterosexual peers. These risks can be lowered with acceptance and affirmation from others in their lives. While you, as a mental healthcare provider, cannot control other people’s reactions to your clients, you can be one adult that helps to lower their risk for suicide. Sustain Recovery knows that suicide is a very serious risk for LGBTQIA+ teens. Our extended residential program in Irvine, California can help teens with their mental wellness and help to lower your client’s risk of suicide. We help teens with substance use and mental health disorders find healing. By helping clients with their mental wellness, we can help prevent suicide together. Call (949) 407-9052 today to learn more about our program and find out if Sustain is the right fit for your client.