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LGBTQ individuals & populations

AFSP supports data collection to better inform LGBTQ suicide prevention strategies and opposes discriminatory and non-affirming practices and policies that create inequities or fail to protect against sexual orientation-based discrimination.

About the issue

Suicide is a complex health issue that disproportionately affects lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people. In the United States, no jurisdiction or agency routinely or systematically collects information about individuals’ sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) at time of death. While the rate of suicide among LGBTQ people is unknown, information about suicidal thinking, plans and attempts among LGBTQ people have been made available because of efforts to include sexual orientation on national health related surveys. Research indicates that LGBTQ youth and young adults are at greater risk for seriously considering and attempting suicide compared to their straight, cisgender peers, and transgender youth report an even higher prevalence of suicide attempts than their LGB or straight peers.  

Research shows that at least part of the reason for the elevated rates of suicidality and poorer mental health found in LGBTQ people is the social stigma, prejudice, and discrimination associated with minoritized sexual orientation. Across the lifespan, LGBTQ people commonly experience individual discrimination in the form of personal rejection, hostility, harassment, bullying, and physical violence, particularly gender minorities with intersecting identities such as transgender and non-binary people of color. For LGB youth, a common and powerful stressor is rejection by parents and other family members. LGBTQ populations also experience institutional discrimination resulting from laws and public policies that create inequities or fail to provide protections against sexual orientation-based discrimination.

While experiences of stigma and discrimination increase risk of depression and other risk factors for suicidality, protective actions like increasing acceptance and affirmation of LGBTQ identities and increasing access to LGBTQ-affirming physical and mental health care reduce the likelihood of LGBTQ youth suicide attempts and suicide deaths and promote wellbeing.

Our policy position

AFSP urges states to implement initiatives to routinely or systematically collect information about individuals’ sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) at the time of death. We need usable SOGI data to inform where and how to allocate resources and to shape policies that can help prevent LGBTQ suicide deaths in the future.

Prevention efforts must also include efforts to protect the LGBTQ population from harmful discriminatory and non-affirming policies and practices. AFSP stands with the research, clinical expertise, and expert consensus of every major professional health organization in opposing the practice of conversion therapy and the prohibition of gender-affirming care for minors. These efforts are not rooted in any scientific fact and can cause irreparable harm to LGBTQ youth.

AFSP urges states to prohibit conversion therapy and protect LGBTQ youth by banning the discredited practice through legislative action. AFSP also urges states to reject any efforts to restrict access to gender-affirming care for transgender and non-binary youth. Non-scientific healthcare standards dictated by policy makers have no place in clinical decision making and can only serve to interfere with the doctor-patient relationship and prevent the provision of appropriate, supportive, life-affirming care.

Schools also have a critical role to play in addressing and supporting student mental health. Importantly, both the risk of suicidality and reported symptoms of depression are lower in the presence of positive school environments for LGBTQ adolescents. AFSP urges states to reject exclusionary and discriminatory legislative efforts that (1) ban discussion/instruction on LGBTQ issues in schools and (2) require parental notification in advance of LGBTQ-inclusive curricula to provide parents an opportunity to opt their children out of any related instruction.

To learn more, read our LGBTQ Individuals & Populations issue brief.

Additional resources

Visit AFSP’s LGBTQ mental health and suicide prevention webpage for information on how to help prevent suicide in LGBTQ communities, to learn about LGBTQ suicide research, and to find LGBTQ crisis support services, including:

AFSP’s one pager, Youth Mental Health & Suicidal Ideation Data: The Importance of the Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), was created as a supplement to a new resource co-created by the Trevor Project, AFSP, and other youth advocacy groups. These resources were designed to support organizations in interrupting myths about this critical adolescent health survey, building relationships with YRBS coordinators, and developing resources and fact sheets on YRBS to share online and in person. For any questions or to request a copy of the full resource, “Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) 101: An Education and Awareness Resource for Local, State, and National Organizations,” email [email protected].

AFSP encourages research on suicide, suicide risk, and suicide prevention in the LGBTQ community. A better understanding of this increased suicidal ideation and behavior is needed across a wider range of samples and data collection methods. Learn more about AFSP-funded LGBTQ research studies and publications.

AFSP’s Talk Saves Lives™ has long been one of the country’s leading suicide prevention education programs, covering the general scope of suicide, the research on prevention, and what people can do to fight this leading cause of death. The newly updated module of this essential program, Talk Saves Lives™: An Introduction to Suicide Prevention in the LGBTQ Community, gives participants essential and lifesaving information and increases understanding of LGBTQ-related topics.

Stronger Communities: LGBTQ Suicide Prevention is a full-day conference hosted by a local AFSP Chapter to raise awareness about LGBTQ suicide risk, bring research findings to the attention of professionals and the public and explore strategies for LGBTQ suicide prevention in local communities.

The Trevor Project’s Protecting with Pride campaign works to protect LGBTQ young people from conversion therapy in every state in the U.S. and in countries around the world by engaging in legislation, litigation, and public education aimed at ending these dangerous and discredited practices.

The Movement Advancement Project (MAP) tracks over 50 different LGBTQ-related laws policies including those related to LGBTQ discrimination in schools, access to gender-affirming care, and conversion therapy – navigate their Equality Maps to learn more about these and other key issues.

The second edition of Talking About Suicide & LGBT Populations, authored by AFSP in partnership with the Movement Advancement Project (MAP) and Johnson Family Foundation, provides ways to talk about suicide safely and accurately and in ways that advance vital public discussions about preventing suicide among LGBT people and supporting their well-being.