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Trigger warning: The following article discusses the topic of suicide.

Note: If you or someone you know is suicidal, please call the Trevor Project Hotline at 1-866-488-7386 or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.

 

In the past year, the CDC has reported that LGBT+ youth are still at higher risk for suicide than straight and cisgender youth.1,2 As today is World Suicide Awareness Day, it is imperative to know how to protect those at highest risk for suicide. Guiding Families notes that bullying and family rejection are the two leading risk factors for LGBT+ youth.3

Silence Equals Rejection

When a teen comes out to their family, it is ideally not the only conversation, but the first of many. If a teen is met with silence after coming out, they will perceive it as rejection. This perceived rejection stemming from silence is what we call “family disconnection,” and the suicide risk in disconnected families is nearly identical to that of rejecting families.4

If a teen is met with silence or a lack of ongoing conversation after coming out, their risk of suicide is nearly identical to a teen who is blatantly rejected by their family. Take initiative to keep open conversation on gender, sexuality, and suicide.

While already at higher risk of suicide, LGBT+ teens from rejecting families are twice as likely to attempt suicide as those from accepting families.5 With this in mind, we must refuse to fall into silence when a teen comes out to us.

Stepping Out of Silence

If we are to protect young lives, silence is not an options. Here are three ways to step out of silence:

First, be intentional about follow-up conversations. If your teen has come out to you, it means they trust you. It is okay, then, to ask them if you can talk with them about their sexuality or gender identity again. Follow up conversations can be beneficial for both you and your teen.

Second, be aware of the possibility of bullying. Your teen might not share details about bullying at first. You should never assume they are being bullied. But let your teen know they can always come to you if someone is hurting them.

Third, know the warning signs for suicide. Make sure your teen knows it is okay to admit they are not feeling okay. Often, parents are unaware of a teen’s suicidal ideation.6 Take the first step to talk to your teen about the risk of suicide.

Further Resources

Talking with your teen about suicide is difficult, but important. Here are some further resources to help guide conversations with your LGBT+ teens.

 

1 Johns MM, Lowry R, Rasberry CN, et al. Violence Victimization, Substance Use, and Suicide Risk Among Sexual Minority High School Students — United States, 2015–2017. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018;67:1211–1215. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6743a4

2 Johns MM, Lowry R, Andrzejewski J, et al. Transgender Identity and Experiences of Violence Victimization, Substance Use, Suicide Risk, and Sexual Risk Behaviors Among High School Students — 19 States and Large Urban School Districts, 2017. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2019;68:67–71. DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.15585/mmwr.mm6803a3external icon

3 Henson, B. J., Jr. (2018). Guiding Families of LGBT Loved Ones (2nd ed., pp. 16-17). Boston, MA: Posture Shift Books.

4 Ibid.

5 Ibid.

6 Baatz M, New Study: Half of Parents Don’t Know Their Teen Has Suicidal Thoughts. https://www.leadthemhome.org/2019/03/new-study-half-of-parents-dont-know-their-teen-has-suicidal-thoughts.html#.XW_IJC2ZNdg

Mitchell Yaksh
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