It’s no secret that LGBT youth are more prone to developing mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety, often due to a lack of support and acceptance from family, friends, the media, and society itself. However, an alarming consequence of these mental health conditions is the increased risk of self-harm and suicide in LGBT youth; research has revealed that LGBT youth are four times more likely to self-harm in comparison to their heterosexual peers, and four times more likely to self-harm with the intent of suicide.
So, what exactly makes LGBT youth more likely to self-mutilate? Individuals might begin self-harming in their teen years, sometimes as an unfortunate coping mechanism, sometimes as a twisted way to punish themselves. In LGBT youth, feelings of hopelessness, guilt, and isolation are typically more prevalent, and the lack of a strong support system can make LGBT youth more likely to self-harm in order to deal with the struggles they may face with their identity or with finding acceptance amongst others.
Self-harm has also been found to be linked to previous physical, sexual, or emotional abuse, and LGBT youth are more likely to face bullying, abuse, neglect, and acts of violence simply due to their identity. So many LGBT youth feel alone and ashamed of their identity, with 59 percent of LGBT youth having considered suicide and 48 percent having self-harmed.
The risk for suicide in the LGBT community is also significantly higher, and often goes hand-in-hand with self-harm. LGB youth seriously contemplate suicide at nearly three times the rate of heterosexual youth, and are almost five times more likely to actually attempt suicide. In the transgender community, these figures are even worse: a study revealed that 40% of transgender adults have reported making a suicide attempt, and 92% of these individuals reported having this suicide attempt before the age of 25.
The anti-LGBT framework of the U.S. government has also been shown to play a role in influencing the risk of suicide and self-harm in LGBT youth. The American Psychological Association has documented the negative impacts of the exclusion of gay and lesbian couples from marriage, and other anti-LGBT laws that encourage prejudice and discrimination in schools, families, and the workplace.
Although the situation may seem bleak, there is hope. LGBT activists and liberation movements have brought much-needed conversations about LGBT rights and acceptance to the forefront of the nation’s issues, and countless organizations and projects work towards creating a safer space for LGBT youth everyday. Remember, your sexuality and identity do not define you, and we’re here to remind you that you are loved, supported, valid, and accepted!