Friends and Family of LGBTQ People

If you know someone who is LGBTQ and thinking about taking their life, there are ways you can help them. This website will give you suggestions for what to do and what not to do when supporting an LGBTQ family member or friend who is in crisis.

LGBTQ Suicide Facts

Too many LGBTQ people have attempted suicide.

  • Lesbian, gay, and bisexual kids are three times more likely than straight kids to attempt suicide at some point in their lives. 1
  • LGBTQ youth are 4 times more likely to make a medically serious attempt at suicide than other young people. 1
  • Especially high suicide attempt rates have been reported among lesbian, gay, and bisexual people who are African American, Latino, Native American, and Asian American. 2-4
  • Lesbian and bisexual women and girls are twice as likely to attempt suicide than those who are straight. 5
  • Gay and bisexual guys are four times as likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual men and boys. 5
  • Nearly half of young trans people have seriously considered taking their lives and a quarter have attempted suicide. 6
  • In one study, 41% of trans adults said they had attempted suicide. The same study found that 61% of trans people who were victims of physical assault had attempted suicide. 7
  • Lesbian, gay, and bisexual young people who come from families that reject or do not accept them are over eight times more likely to attempt suicide than those whose families accept them. 8
  • Each time an LGBTQ person is a victim of physical or verbal harassment or abuse, they become two and a half times more likely to hurt themselves. 9
  • Conversion or reparative therapy are ineffective and extremely harmful for LGBTQ people. These therapies can lead to increased depression, substance abuse, and suicide attempts. 10
  • Suicidal lesbian, gay, and bisexual people were more likely to attempt suicide after seeking religious or spiritual treatment. 11

Note: This website only includes information about suicide attempts and not deaths by suicide. That is because accurate information is not always collected and reported about people’s sexualities and gender identities after their deaths. For this reason, there are not reliable statistics regarding suicide rates of LGBTQ people.

Citations

  1. Marshal MP, Dietz LJ, Friedman MS, et al. Suicidality and depression disparities between sexual minority and heterosexual youth: a meta-analytic review. J Adolescent Health. 2011;49(2):115–123.
  2. Remafedi G. Suicidality in a venue-based sample of young men who have sex with men. J Adolescent Health.2002;31(4):305–310.
  3. Paul JP, Catania J, Pollack L, et al. Suicide attempts among gay and bisexual men: lifetime prevalence and antecedents. Am J Public Health. 2002;92(8):1338–1345.
  4. Meyer IH, Dietrich J, Schwartz S. Lifetime prevalence of mental disorders and suicide attempts in diverse lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations. Am J Public Health. 2008;98(6):1004–1006.
  5. King M, Semlyen J, Tai SS, et al. A systematic review of mental disorder, suicide, and deliberate self harm in lesbian, gay and bisexual people. BMC Psychiatry. 2008;8:70.
  6. Grossman, A.H. & D’Augelli, A.R. (2007). Transgender Youth and Life-Threatening Behaviors. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behaviors.37(5), 527-37.
  7. Grant JM, Mottet LA, Tanis J, Harrison J, Herman JL, Keisling M. Injustice at every turn: a report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; 2011.
  8. Family Acceptance Project™. (2009). Family rejection as a predictor of negative health outcomes in white and Latino lesbian, gay, and bisexual young adults. Pediatrics. 123(1), 346-52.
  9. IMPACT. (2010). Mental health disorders, psychological distress, and suicidality in a diverse sample of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youths. American Journal of Public Health. 100(12), 2426-32.
  10. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration. Ending conversion therapy: supporting and affirming LGBTQ youth. 2015.
  11. Meyer, Iian H., Merilee TEYLAN, and SHARON SCHWARTZ. “The Role of Help-Seeking in Preventing Suicide Attempts among Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals.” The Official Journal of the American Association of Suicidology (2014): 1-12. Web. 23 Dec. 2016.

Challenges Experienced By LGBTQ Adults

Here are some of the difficulties faced by LGBTQ adults:

Discrimination

A major challenge for LGBTQ people is the discrimination we experience every day. Others take advantage of inequalities in the laws that fail to protect us from unfair practices at work, in school, and in securing housing.  There are even states that have given people the right to refuse to serve us. This discrimination promotes the idea that LGBTQ people are inferior. It is this social perception that creates nearly every other challenge we experience in the LGBTQ community.

Coming Out 

Attempts at suicide are most common right before or right after coming out. Coming to terms with identifying as LGBTQ can be extremely difficult and the fear of telling others, when we are not sure how they will react, can be terrifying. The people we love might be more accepting than we ever thought possible or they may have a negative reaction. Once we come out, our lives are changed forever and it can take time for things to change for the better.

Read more about coming out here (external link).

Family Rejection 

This is one of the biggest fears and risk factors of suicide attempts for LGBTQ people. The lack of understanding and acceptance from family and friends can be very isolating and make it difficult to get the resources we need to live healthy lives.

See more information on family: Challenges experienced by LGBTQ youth under the “Are terrified to come out to family and friends” section.

Isolation from the LGBTQ Community

Connecting to other people who identify as LGBTQ is important to understanding and accepting yourself. When you don’t know other people like you, it can feel like there is something wrong with you. But you are not the only one. There are millions of people who identify as LGBTQ in the U.S. alone. Knowing and communicating with other LGBTQ people is one of the best things you can do for yourself.

See more information on friends: Challenges experienced by LGBTQ+ Youth under the “Wish they knew how to find LGBTQ+ friends and people to date” section.

Harassment and Violence

Harassment and violence of LGBTQ people is one of the most common forms of hate-violence in the U.S. The real frequency of these attacks is unknown since many go unreported, but we do know it is common for LGBTQ people to experience verbal harassment, threats of assault, and physical violence. Sadly, sometimes these attacks turn fatal and victims who survive the attacks are more likely to attempt suicide after being assaulted. Also, domestic violence is reported less by LGBTQ people than other victims even though it happens just as often in LGBTQ relationships. This leaves many people feeling like they have no way to safety.

Lack of Health Resources 

Health needs often slip through the cracks because people fear coming out to healthcare workers and healthcare workers are rarely properly trained in caring for LGBTQ people. The lack of knowledge and understanding within hospitals, mental health facilities, sexual health facilities, recovery programs, and emergency personnel leads to higher rates of HIV/AIDS and some types of cancer; undiagnosed depression, anxiety, and mood disorders; and increased drug and alcohol abuse in the LGBTQ community.

See more information on health resources: Challenges experienced by LGBTQ youth under the “Aren’t sure how to access health services that are accepting and knowledgeable about LGBTQ+ health issues” section.

No Transportation

Even when there are services available to help, it can be extremely difficult to reach them if they are too far away or you don’t have a ride to get there. This is especially hard for LGBTQ people who do not live near cities.

Intersectionality

People of different races, economic statuses, abilities, and gender identities have very different experiences within their own communities and within the LGBTQ community. For example, a trans woman of color with a disability will be subjected to discrimination for her race, gender, and ability. People with intersecting identities of oppressed groups are even more likely to experience each of the challenges mentioned above.

Challenges Experienced By LGBTQ+ Youth

Many LGBTQ+ teens and young people:

• Are terrified of coming out to family and friends

• Wish they knew how to find LGBTQ+ friends and people to date

• Go to schools that don’t provide all of the resources they need

• Work at places that don’t have LGBTQ+ inclusive policies

• Have to deal with harassment, bullying, or violence

• Aren’t sure how to access health services that are accepting and knowledgeable about LGBTQ+ health issues

• Struggle with mental illnesses and thoughts of suicide

• Don’t know where to find help

Depression, Anxiety, And Suicide

According to the CDC, 90% of the people who die by suicide have a mental illness – such as depression or anxiety – or substance abuse problem at the time of their death.

Depression, anxiety, and mood disorders are common in the LGBTQ community. One reason for this is the stress LGBTQ people face because of prejudice and discrimination; like family rejection, bullying, harassment, and violence. These experiences cause low self-esteem, isolation, and negative sexual and gender identity. If those feelings last for a long time, they can grow into anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses.

Many people use alcohol and drugs to try to avoid their thoughts and feelings. Unfortunately, drug and alcohol abuse usually end up adding to feelings of pain, guilt, and shame.

Sometimes people think that taking their lives is the only way to stop their pain. But most people (even those with the most severe cases of depression, anxiety, and drug or alcohol abuse) can get better with treatment.

We know that at times things can look really bad, hopeless and like nothing will ever get any better.  But it can and it will!  You just have to stop, take a breath and reach out to someone who cares because they are out there and they will help you.

Citations

  1. Grant JM, Mottet LA, Tanis J, Harrison J, Herman JL, Keisling M. Injustice at every turn: a report of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. Washington, DC: National Center for Transgender Equality and National Gay and Lesbian Task Force; 2011.
  2. Hatzenbuehler ML, Keyes KM, Hasin DS. State-level policies and psychiatric morbidity in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations. Am J Public Health. 2009;99(12):2275–2281.
  3. Hatzenbuehler ML, McLaughlin KA, Keyes KM, Hasin DS. The impact of institutional discrimination on psychiatric disorders in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: a prospective study. Am J Public Health.2010;100(3):452–459.
  4. Ryan C, Russell ST, Huebner D, Diaz R, Sanchez J. Family acceptance in adolescence and the health of LGBT young adults. J Child Adolesc Psychiatr Nurs. 2010;23(4):205–213.
  5. Blosnich JR, Bossarte RM, Silenzio VM. Suicidal ideation among sexual minority veterans: results from the 2005–2010 Massachusetts behavioral risk factor surveillance survey. Am J Public Health. 2012;102 Suppl 1:S44–47.

Warning Signs Of Suicide In The LGBTQ Community

  • Thinking about, talking about, or planning suicide 1
  • Abusing drugs or alcohol, especially if they increase their use or change drugs 1
  • Anxiety, restlessness, and/or feeling overwhelmed 1
  • Recklessness or high risk-taking behavior 1
  • Frequent anger 1
  • Feeling trapped or like there is no way out 1
  • Feeling no sense of purpose, hopelessness, or unmotivated 1
  • Withdrawing from family, friends, work, school, and/or activities they used to enjoy 1
  • Stress from prejudice and discrimination (family rejection, harassment, bullying, violence) 2
  • Feeling lonely or like there is no one they can talk to 2
  • Sleep problems (either too much or too little) 3
  • Unusual appetite that results in noticeable weight loss or gain 3
  • Saying goodbye to people or giving away their most valuable possessions 4
  • Feeling like no one would care if they are gone or like it would be easier for everyone if they were gone 5
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as obtaining a gun or other lethal means 5
  • Extreme mood swings 5

Citations

  1. These warning signs were compiled by a task force of expert clinical-researchers and ‘translated’ for the general public.
  2. Haas, A. P., Eliason, M., Mays, V. M., Mathy, R. M., Cochran, S. D., D’Augelli, A. R. . . . Clayton, P. J. (2011). Suicide and suicide risk in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations: Review and recommendations. Journal of Homosexuality58(1), 10–51. 
  3. DSM-IV Criteria for Major Depressive Disorder
  4. The Trevor Project
  5. Suicide Prevention Resources Center

Protective Factors And Risk Factors

There are some factors which have proven to be protective factors that reduce the risk of suicide for LGBTQ people. There have also been risk factors that have been shown to escalate chances that an LGBTQ person may attempt suicide. Efforts should be made to increase protective factors and decrease risk factors in the lives of your loved ones.

Protective Factors

  • Family acceptance 1
  • Connections to friends and others who care about the person at risk 2
  • A sense of safety 2
  • Positive sexual and gender identity 3
  • Access to quality, culturally appropriate, and LGBTQ-affirming mental health treatment 3
  • Improved identification of depression, anxiety, substance abuse, and other mental disorders 4
  • School safety 4

Risk Factors

  • Rejection from family 5
  • Sexual orientation and gender-related prejudice and stressors 4
  • Bullying, harassment, violence, physical abuse, and other forms of victimization 4
  • Sexual abuse 6
  • Discriminatory laws and public policies 4

Citations 

  1. Ryan C, Russell ST, Huebner D, Diaz R, Sanchez J. Family acceptance in adolescence and the health of LGBT young adults. J Child Adolesc Psychiatr Nurs. 2010;23(4):205–213.
  2. Eisenberg ME, Resnick MD. Suicidality among gay, lesbian and bisexual youth: the role of protective factors. J Adolesc Health. 2006;39(5):662–668.
  3. Haas AP, Eliason M, Mays VM, et al. Suicide and suicide risk in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations: review and recommendations. J Homosex. 2011;58(1):10–51.
  4. 2012 National Strategy for Suicide Prevention: Goals and Objectives for Action: A Report of the U.S. Surgeon General and of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention.
  5. Baker K, Garcia J. National action alliance for suicide prevention tackles LGBT suicide. National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention. 2012.
  6. Skerrett DM, Kolves K, De Leo D. Factors related to suicide in LGBT populations: A psychological autopsy case-control study in Australia. 2016.

You Can Help

If you see the warning signs of suicide or if someone comes to you for help:

You can begin by asking questions and being open-minded. 

Talking about it without being met by judgment or accusation might be what the person requires to set them on a path to getting the help they need.

Don’t minimize problems or shame a person into changing their mind. 

Take them seriously. Listen to them and believe them. Trying to convince the person that what they are feeling is not that bad or that they have everything to live for may only increase their feelings of guilt and hopelessness. Let them know that help is available, that suicidal feelings are temporary, that they are important, and that life can get better.

Instead of trying to change their sexual or gender identity, work to reduce prejudice and discrimination. 

The American Psychological Association tells us that trying to change someone’s sexual or gender identity has negative impacts. The APA instead recommends increasing educational services and social supports that provide accurate information, increase family and school support, and reduce rejection.

Make sure to follow through. 

If you feel the person isn’t in immediate danger, acknowledge the pain as legitimate and offer to work together to get help. Be tenacious. Offer to help find a doctor or resources to address some of the challenges they are experiencing. You can also participate in making the first phone call, or go along on the first appointment.

Get informed about how to support LGBTQ people.

There are many resources available at the PFLAG, The Family Acceptance Project, and the Human Rights Campaign websites. The Coming Out as a Supporter Guide from the Human Rights Campaign is a great place to start and can be downloaded for free at their website.

Help your loved one create a safety plan 

Having a safety plan in place during a time of emotional vulnerability is one way to help a loved one manage their thoughts and feelings. It can assist them in finding help quickly. A template for a Safety Plan, including important details to consider, can be found here.

Make sure they know that you love them.

Remember, a suicidal person should see a doctor or mental health professional immediately. Calling 911 or going to a hospital emergency room are valid options. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line at 741 741.

Where To Find Help

Crisis Help

The Trevor Project is the leading national organization providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) young people ages 13-24. www.thetrevorproject.org. 1-866-488-7386.

The GLBT National Help Center provides peer-support and resource information to people with questions regarding sexual orientation and/or gender identity. They operate three national hotlines: the GLBT National Hotline, the GLBT National Youth Talkline, and the SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline. They also offer online peer support chat and an extensive database of LGBTQ resources. www.glbthotline.org. 1-800-246-7743.

The Trans Lifeline is dedicated to the well being of transgender people. They run a hotline staffed by transgender people for transgender people. Trans Lifeline volunteers are ready to respond to whatever support needs members of the trans community might have. www.translifeline.org. 1-877-565-8860.

The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline provides free and confidential emotional support to people in suicidal crisis or emotional distress 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, across the United States. www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.  1-800-273-8255.

The Suicide Prevention Resource Center provides information on mental health facilities and prevention efforts in your state. www.sprc.org.

The Crisis Text Line is free, 24/7 support for those in crisis. Text 741741 from anywhere in the USA to text with a trained Crisis Counselor. www.crisistext.org.

Additional Resources

Coming Out Resources

Resources to Share with Your Family and Friends

Mental Health Resources  

Medical and Sexual Health Resources  

Substance Abuse and Addiction Resources 

Anti-Violence Resources (violence/harassment/domestic abuse)

Legal Resources

Homelessness Resources

School

Employment Resources

Welcoming Religious Communities 

Local LGBTQ Social and Recreational Resources

Stories From Other Survivors