AUSTIN (KXAN) — One in four teenagers who identified as LGBTQ+ said they attempted suicide during the first half of 2021, according to new data released by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The CDC’s findings also revealed that almost half (46.8%) of teenagers who said they are lesbian, gay or bisexual seriously considered a suicide attempt during that same time frame. These results came to light from the CDC’s first national survey of high school students, a project funded by the federal CARES Act to assess the mental health of American youth during the COVID-19 pandemic.
- You can reach a trained crisis counselor through the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 800-273-8255 or texting 741741. For LGBTQ mental health support, call the Trevor Project’s 24/7 toll-free support line at 866-488-7386.
Health experts at the CDC said they hope publishing these survey results will create more awareness about the serious mental health concerns of young people and highlight the need for more support to address those in schools and in public policy. They suggested in the report that one strategy could include “fostering connectedness at school and with others.”
In a news release, Dr. Debra Houry, the CDC acting principal deputy director, said, “These data echo a cry for help. The COVID-19 pandemic has created traumatic stressors that have the potential to further erode students’ mental wellbeing. Our research shows that surrounding youth with the proper support can reverse these trends and help our youth now and in the future.”
The report also suggested, “In addition to providing youths with access to needed mental health care, comprehensive approaches that promote help-seeking behaviors, connections to trusted adults and supportive peers, and engagement in community activities have been shown to have many benefits including improved feelings of connectedness, better mental health, reduced risk for suicide, reduced prevalence of health risk behaviors, and better academic achievement. Positive experiences during childhood, including school connectedness, can build resilience and protect or buffer adults who have experienced multiple childhood traumas.”
Regarding advice for how schools can help, the report said districts should implement programs like “those focused on social and emotional learning, professional development for staff to improve classroom management, and strategies to foster relationships between students, their families, and school staff.”
The survey does not specify exact reasons for the higher likelihood of suicidality among LGBTQ+ teenagers. However, compared to heterosexual students, the LGBTQ+ respondents reported higher percentages of poor mental health during the pandemic, persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness and fewer close connections to others at school.
A pediatrician’s post about the attempted suicide statistic has been retweeted more than 500 times, has gotten almost 1,200 likes and has been shared on people’s Instagram accounts in the past few days. Dr. Scott Hadland, the chief of adolescent and young adult medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, speculated about why he thinks the numbers are so high.
“When we discriminate against #LGBTQ ppl on topics like same-sex marriage, workplace discrimination, trans athletes, K-3 ed: queer teens are listening, internalizing, and suffering,” Dr. Hadland wrote.
The CDC’s data came out after KXAN learned thousands of young people from the LGBTQ+ community in Texas reached out seeking help from a national suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization. Within the last year, The Trevor Project shared it had more than 14,500 crisis contacts with young Texans who asked to connect with a counselor through a call, chat or text message. This happened during a time when state leaders pursued legislative actions related to transgender kids and their families.
A spokesperson for the organization pointed out results from a poll released by The Trevor Project earlier this year that found an overwhelming majority (85%) of transgender and nonbinary youth citing political debates for harming their mental health.