What You Can Do to Support LGBTQ+ Youth at Risk of Depression and Suicide

Date Posted

May 12, 2017


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Last week, Families for Depression Awareness broadcast our Teen Depression Webinar, now available to watch on demand. Many viewers asked for more information on supporting LGBTQ+ teens at risk of depression and suicide. Our expert presenters, Jessica Feinberg, LICSW, and Dana Sarvey, MD, stated that traditional wellness supports (e.g., ask if someone is suicidal, listen/look at a teen’s behaviors and actions, act if a teen is suicidal by contacting emergency services) were a great start. However, they cautioned parents and caregivers to be aware of additional risk factors that may cause depression and suicide ideation for LGBTQ+ youth.

What you should know:

  • Depression affects LGBTQ+ people at higher rates than the heterosexual population.
  • LGBTQ+ youth are more likely to report higher levels of bullying and drug use and feelings of depression. (Russell & Fish, 2016)
  • A nationally representative study of adolescents in grades 7–12 found that lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth were more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide as their heterosexual peers.
  • Discrimination, such as anti-LGBTQ+ hostility, harassment, bullying, and family rejection, is a major suicide risk factor. (Russell & Fish, 2016)

What you can do (adapted from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention):

  • Talk and listen. Create an environment that is safe for your teen to share concerns with you. Help the teen feel comfortable discussing sexual orientation by encouraging honest conversations about sex and how to avoid risky behavior or unsafe situations.
  • Provide support. Learn as much as you can through local organizations or nationally-recognized health and wellness groups (such as The Trevor Project) about the best ways to support LGBTQ+ teens. Manage your own feelings and responses so that you can calmly interact with the teen.
  • Stay involved. Make an effort to know your teen’s friends and what your teen is doing. This can help the teen stay safe and feel cared about.
  • Be proactive. Ask your teen questions and engage in difficult topics. Do not wait for your teen to bring subjects up to you. Having a conversation with a teen about suicide will not make them suicidal.

The positive and proactive messaging that parents and caregivers send to youth can create suicide protective factors. The Trevor Project has created a wonderful guide to address the “do’s” and “don’t’s” of Talking About Suicide & LGBT Populations.

Just by reading this article, you’ve taken the first step to creating a positive environment for the teens in your life. We encourage you to keep learning, visit the resources in this article, and ask questions!

For more information:

  • Watch our Teen Depression webinar, now on demand! What parents need to know about teen depression—and the new danger of social media live streaming.
  • The Trevor Project’s Trevor Support Center, which offers many resources for LGBTQ youth and allies.