Ingrid Blaufarb Hughes

Not the Whole Person

What Drives Suicidal Thoughts and Actions Among LGBTQ Youth?

We can better help sexual minority youth.

Posted Feb 27, 2020

Photo by Ulrike Mai
Source: Photo by Ulrike Mai

Suicide is second only to accidental injuries as the leading cause of death for Americans between 10 and 24 years old. According to statistics compiled by The Trevor Project, an excellent source of research on LGBTQ young people, sexual minority youth attempt suicide five times more often than their heterosexual peers and their attempts more often require medical treatment. 

The attitudes of family, the community, and the public in general play a major role in suicidal feelings and actions. LGBTQ youth with unsympathetic families are eight times more likely to attempt suicide than are those whose families accept or tolerate their sexual identity. Each instance of harassment or abuse a young LGBTQ person experiences raises the likelihood of self-harm 2.5 times. The encouraging news is that LGBTQ youth with at least one accepting adult in their lives were 40% less likely to report a recent suicide attempt.  

In addition, rates of suicide attempts among sexual minority young people vary according to race, with Asian/Pacific Islanders having a rate of 15%, whites and African-Americans having 18%, Latinx youngsters having 19% and American Indian/Alaskan Natives youth having 32%. Those who identified as transgender and/or non-binary were at highest risk.

On the positive side, a study led by Julia Raifman at Johns Hopkins School of Public Health concluded in 2017 that laws allowing same-sex marriage were associated with a reduced rate of suicide attempts among young people, especially among sexual minorities, an effect that lasted for two years. Greater acceptance translates to saved lives.

If you identify as an LGTBQ-IA youth and are in crisis, or know someone who is, call The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386.

If you are an adult in crisis, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255.

To find a therapist, visit the Psychology Today Therapy Directory.


The Trevor Project: Saving Young LGBTQ Lives.