While 2.5% of the U.S. population reported having attempted suicide at least once in their life, that number rises to 17% for lesbian, gay and bisexual adults and 40% for their transgender peers. This disparity isn't because a LGBTQ+ identity is in itself a mental illness, but because many LGBTQ+ people are told time and time again, through actions and words, that who we are is wrong, who and how we love is revolting, our bodies are unnatural, and our mere existence a threat. To combat this, I’ve listed five ways to support LGBTQ+ people in your life this World Suicide Prevention Day [Saturday, September 10].
1. Seek help. You deserve it.
A remarkable organization called The Trevor Project offers support for LGBTQ+ youth across the U.S. through chat, call, or text. The Trans Lifeline provides transgender peer support in Canada and the U.S. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline isn’t LGBTQ+ specific and is available to call or text at 988 in Spanish or English. Each of these are free, confidential and operated 24/7.
When I talk to people who only passively follow LGBTQ+ politics, I’m often confronted by the misunderstanding that if we only wait long enough, we will eventually, gradually, inevitably reach “equality.” Many things are indeed improving, but we have a long way to go.
The highest number of anti-trans murders in the U.S. was recorded in 2021, according to the Human Rights Campaign. 2022 has been the worst year in recent history for state legislative attacks on LGBTQ+ rights. The Trevor Project’s 2022 national survey found that suicidal thoughts among LGBTQ+ youth have been on the rise for the past three years.
Anti-trans legislation and COVID-19 have contributed to LGBTQ+ youth’s deteriorating mental health. In 2021, trans and non-binary youth who wanted their legal documents updated were less likely to have attempted suicide in the past year if this was already done. Suicidality can be decreased through access to gender-affirming healthcare for trans and non-binary youth who wish for it. These are just a few examples of things your vote can influence.
3. Be out as an ally.
Despite support for both gay and trans rights consistently growing, it’s often hard, especially for minors in the LGBTQ+ community, to find people whom they know they can come out to and talk about their problems with.
So whether you’re a friend, coach, teacher, parent, manager, healthcare professional, or librarian, letting it be known that you’re safe to talk to encourages vital conversations about LGBTQ+ mental health and needs. Even if LGBTQ+ people don’t take you up on the offer, it’s empowering to know that there are allies not only out there somewhere, but in their own community.
4. Use our names and pronouns.
If the people a trans or non-binary youth live with all respect their name and pronouns, that youth is 11% less likely to have attempted suicide in the past year, in comparison to a trans or non-binary youth whose pronouns and name no one they live with use. This is why we care about pronouns: not because it’s “woke,” but because it can be life-saving.
You may think adjusting your language is hard, but please don’t complain. How are we supposed to have any self-worth if we’re made to feel like basic respect is too much to ask for?
5. Act like we’re always in the room—because we are.
According to a poll from Gallup every fourteenth adult in the U.S. identified as LGBTQ+ in 2021. Considering just how many LGBTQ+ people are at risk of suicide, you probably play a role in the lives of quite a few of them. Whether it’s your neighbor, granddad, yoga teacher, employer or hairdresser, you might be able to make a difference. It’s not easy, but it’s possible. If there’s one thing I hope you take from this article, it's that it’s worth it to try.
Ace Dufresne is a rising ninth grader at Ithaca High School