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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Suicidal Ideation and Self-Harm in LGBT Youth

Medical News Today
Originally published February 16, 2012

What protects lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youths from considering suicide and, conversely, what makes them most vulnerable to it?

The question is of paramount concern because these youths are at least twice as likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual youths, prompting the national "It Gets Better Project" with encouraging video messages from such public figures as Lady Gaga and President Barack Obama.

Now the first longitudinal study to look at suicide ideation and self-harm in this population shows support from friends and family offers the most protection in preventing youths from thinking about suicide. Adolescents who know they can talk to their parents about problems and know they have friends who care about them are less likely to consider ending their lives, according to new Northwestern Medicine research.

Adolescents most likely to consider killing themselves and engage in self-harm behaviors are those who feel victimized for being gay. About 94 percent of LGBT youths have had at least one experience in which people said cruel things to them, spit on them, destroyed their property and threatened or assaulted them - all related to them being gay, according to prior Northwestern research.

Suicidal thoughts are a key predictor of a suicide attempt. Cutting behaviors also are a risk factor.

Previous studies of LGBT adolescents looked at their risk of making suicide attempts, not predictors that make them vulnerable to it or protect them from it.

"Our research shows how critical it is for these young people to have social support and for schools to have programs to reduce bullying," said Brian Mustanski, associate professor of medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine. "We believe this will help save young lives."

The entire story is here.

The research article is here.