June is Pride Month, a time dedicated to fighting for civil rights and celebrating the LGBTQ+ community — and honoring the Stonewall Riots, a week-long uprising in New York City’s Greenwich Village in 1969. But despite decades of fighting for their rights and freedoms, the LGBTQ+ community, and increasingly, LGBTQ+ children, face oppression and discrimination in the U.S. through a growing passage of anti-LGBTQ laws. This crisis is unfolding, and alongside it, has contributed to a mental health crisis among LGBTQ+ youth.
The crisis cannot be understated. In a year marked by a wave of discriminatory legislation across the country, LGBTQ+ youth mental illness, suicidal ideation, and suicide attempts have swelled to the point that 45% of LGBTQ+ youth considered suicide in the last year. One out of every five transgender and nonbinary people between the ages of 13 and 24 attempted suicide in the last year, according to data compiled by The Trevor Project. The study also found that those who felt supported by their families and communities were up to 50% less likely to attempt suicide.
In light of those findings, The Trevor Project further analyzed data from the LGBTQ+ community detailing something positive and actionable: the impact that family and community support can have on the lives and well-being of LGBTQ teens and young adults.
Parental Support Is Crucial for LGB Youth
The main takeaway of the survey is that supportive parents do a world of good for LGBTQ+ youth. Specifically, supportive actions were associated with a 25% to 47% lower odds of LGBQ youth attempting suicide.
The study found that for cisgender LGBQ youth, eight supportive actions decreased their risk of attempting suicide. These actions are:
- Supporting the child’s gender expression
- Talking with the child respectfully about their LGBTQ identity
- Asking how the child would like their LGBTQ identity to be discussed with other people
- Being welcoming and kind to their LGBTQ friends or partner(s)
- Taking the child to LGBTQ-related events or celebrations
- Standing up for them when they’re being mistreated due to their LGBTQ identity
- Educating themselves about LGBTQ people and issues
- Openly and respectfully discussing LGBTQ issues with their child
The actions parents can take that have the greatest impact on reducing suicide attempts — reducing the odds by more than 40% — were talking with the child respectfully about their LGBTQ identity, respectfully discussing LGBTQ issues with their child, and standing up for their child when they’re mistreated due to their LGBTQ identity.
However, parents have a lot of room for improvement. For example, only 44% of kids said their parents or caregivers educated themselves about LGBTQ issues and people, and only 43% said their parents openly and respectfully discussed LGBTQ issues with them.
Trans Youth Have an Even Greater Risk of Suicide Attempts
Eleven supportive actions were associated with a 16% to 42% lower odds of transgender, nonbinary, or gender-questioning youth attempting suicide, according to the study. These actions include all eight of those that apply to cisgender LGBQ youth, and three others, which are:
- Encouraging other family members or friends to respect the child’s LGBTQ identity
- Using the child’s name and pronouns correctly
- Finding a faith community that affirms and respects their child’s LGBTQ identity
The three most important actions parents could take to reduce suicide attempts by their transgender children were talking with the child respectfully about their LGBTQ identity, being welcoming and kind to their child’s LGBTQ friends or partner(s), and finding a faith community that affirms and respects their child’s LGBTQ identity.
However, only 41% of the trans, nonbinary, and gender questioning respondents said that their parents used their name and pronouns correctly, and 40% said their parents were educating themselves on LGBTQ issues and people.
“These findings underscore that relatively simple, supportive actions were taken by parents and caregivers can contribute to lower suicide risk among LGBTQ young people,” Jonah DeChants, Ph.D., a research scientist at The Trevor Project, said in a statement.
“These data show that just talking with youth respectfully about their LGBTQ identity was associated with over 40% lower odds of a suicide attempt in the past year. Especially as we see lawmakers in states across the country pass laws that target this group of young people that already faces disproportionate rates of depression, bullying, and suicide risk compared to their peers, the role that parents and caregivers play to support their children is as crucial as ever.”
So, there you have it — when parents and caregivers treat their LGBTQ kids like actual people, it can literally save their lives. Supportive communities and welcoming families make a huge difference in the mental, physical, and emotional well-being of LGBTQ teens as they navigate what’s becoming an increasingly hostile landscape.