Report on Suicide and Suicide Risk in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Populations Released

Calls for Broad Action to Address Knowledge and Prevention Gaps

New York, NY – January 5, 2011 –– An expert panel of 26 leading researchers, clinicians, educators and policy experts have released a comprehensive report on the prevalence and underlying causes of suicidal behavior in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) adolescents and adults.  The report will be published in a special edition of the Journal of Homosexuality on January 5th.

Titled “Suicide and Suicide Risk in Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Populations: Review and Recommendations” the report makes sweeping recommendations for closing knowledge gaps in what is known and not known about LGBT suicide behaviors and calls for making LGBT suicide prevention a national priority.   This is especially timely in light of multiple suicide deaths among LGBT youth in recent months.  

Despite four decades of research pointing to elevated rates of suicide attempts among LGBT people, national suicide prevention initiatives, including the 2001 U.S. National Strategy for  Suicide Prevention, have given scant attention to suicide risk in sexual minority persons. “With this report and recommendations, we hope to move LGBT suicide prevention squarely onto the national agenda and provide a framework for actions aimed at reducing suicidal behavior in these populations,” said Ann Haas, PhD, lead author and Director of Prevention Projects for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. “It’s time for the federal government, suicide prevention agencies, mental health professionals, policy makers and LGBT organizations to join together to bring this problem out of the closet and work toward effective solutions.”

Key Findings and Recommendations:

  • The report cites strong research evidence of significantly elevated rates of lifetime reported suicide attempts among LGBT adolescents and adults, compared to comparably aged heterosexual persons.  However, the authors found limited empirical evidence of higher rates of suicide deaths in LGBT people, mostly because sexual orientation and gender identity are not indicated on death records in the U.S. and most other countries.
  • Although multiple studies point to elevated rates of depression, anxiety and substance abuse among sexual minority people, the panel found that these problems, by themselves, do not account for the higher rates of suicide attempts that have been reported by LGBT people.  Thus, the consensus report identified stigma and discrimination as playing a key role especially acts such as rejection or abuse by family members or peers, bullying and harassment, denunciation from religious communities and individual discrimination.  The report also highlighted evidence that discriminatory laws and public policies have a profound negative impact on the mental health of gay adults.
  • In a series of recommendations, the consensus panel called on LGBT organizations to lead efforts to encourage early identification of depression, anxiety, substance abuse and other mental disorders among LGBT people, and push for the development and testing of a wider range of culturally-appropriate mental health treatments and suicide prevention initiatives.
  • The consensus panel called for revision of diagnoses pertaining to transgender people in the 5th edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual (due out in 2013) to affirm that gender identity, expression and behavior that differ from birth sex is not indicative of a mental disorder.
  • Other recommendations focus on improving information about LGBT people by measuring  sexual orientation and gender identity in all national health surveys in which respondents’ privacy can be adequately protected, and encouraging researchers to include such measures in general population studies related to suicide and mental health.      

The complete report will be available online on January 5 at www.informaworld.com/wjhm. The print version will be released on January 19th. 

Ann P. Haas, PhD, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 207-542-1697, ahaas@afsp.org

Wylie Tene, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, 212-360-3500, wtene@afsp.org

About the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention:

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is the leading national not-for-profit organization exclusively dedicated to understanding and preventing suicide through research, education and advocacy as well as to reaching out to people with mental disorders and those impacted by suicide.

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