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Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning youth living in the South are more likely to consider or attempt suicide than LGBTQ+ young people in other regions of the United States, according to a report The Trevor Project released Wednesday.
The Trevor Project is a suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ+ young people that offers 24/7 crisis counseling. The group's 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health included more than 12,000 participants between the ages of 13 and 24 who live in southern states, including Texas.
About 44% of LGBTQ+ youth in the South reported seriously considering suicide compared with 41% of LGBTQ+ youth in other parts of the country. Additionally, 16% of LGBTQ youth in the South also reported suicide attempts in the past year. In comparison, 14% of survey participants living in other parts of the country reported attempting suicide during that timeframe.
Dr. Myeshia Price, a senior research scientist with The Trevor Project, says young people in the southern region of the U.S. are at greater risk for suicide largely because they're living in less affirming and accepting areas.
"So, youth living in the South report their communities are somewhat or very unaccepting at higher rates than those who are living in other regions," Price said.
Dr. Price points out that the risk of attempted suicide decreases when young people feel affirmed in their sexual orientation and gender identify.
"Being LGBTQ in and of itself is not putting LGBTQ youth at (increased) risk for suicide. What is, is how LGBTQ youth are treated," Price said.
According to the survey, southern LGBTQ youth reported lower acess to an LGBTQ-affirming home, school, and workplace. Transgender and nonbinary youth in southern states also faced a lower rate of respect for their pronouns (27% vs 34%) and had more difficulty changing official documents to match their gender identity (66% vs 54%) than youth in other regions.
Dr. Price says southern states' efforts to pass anti-LGBTQ legislation also affects young people's mental health. For example, the Republican-controlled Texas Legislature passed a bill in October— that Gov. Greg Abbott signed into law — prohibiting transgender youth from competing on school sports teams that align with their gender identity.
"The Trevor Project's crisis counselors have been hearing from LGBTQ youth in Texas who have expressed mental health challenges around the political environment in their state," said Dr. Price.
The Trevor Project saw crisis contacts (calls, texts, and chats) from LGBTQ youth in Texas increase by more than 150% between Jan. 1 and Aug. 30, 2021 when compared with the same period last year.
"We have to think about how we can increase the number of LGBTQ-affirming schools, workplaces, community spaces, and also to educate parents and teachers, and youth-serving professionals in ways that can support LGBTQ youth so that they can thrive in these environments and spaces that they find themselves in," Price said.