Well-Being Mental Health

LGBTQ+ youth report rise in suicidal thoughts, waning mental health support in new survey

Close to half of LGBTQ+ young people between the ages of 13 and 24 reported attempting suicide over the last year, according to new research from The Trevor Project.
Cards given to children dealing with LGBTQ issues by Disney cast members participating in an employee walkout of Walt Disney World, Tuesday, March 22, 2022, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan M. Ebenhack)

Story at a glance

  • Forty-five percent of the nation’s LGBTQ+ 13- to 24-year-olds report having seriously considered taking their own life at some point in the last 12 months, according to an annual report on LGBTQ+ youth mental health published by The Trevor Project.

  • Close to two-thirds of LGBTQ+ youth reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety this year and 8 percent said they had experienced symptoms of depression.

  • Roughly 60 percent of LGBTQ+ youth who said they wanted mental health care this year have not been able to receive it, according to the report.

LGBTQ+ youth mental health has deteriorated over the last year, new research shows, and nearly half of the nation’s LGBTQ+ 13- to 24-year-olds report having seriously considered taking their own life at some point in the last 12 months. Even more have experienced symptoms of disorders like anxiety or depression.

Close to two-thirds of LGBTQ+ youth reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety this year, up slightly over last year, when 72 percent reported symptoms, according to an annual report from The Trevor Project assessing the state of LGBTQ+ youth mental health in the U.S.

Another 58 percent said they had experienced symptoms of depression over the last year, compared with 62 percent in 2021. Feelings of anxiety and depression were particularly elevated among transgender and nonbinary youth, with more than three-quarters reporting symptoms of anxiety and about two-thirds reporting symptoms of depression. 

LGBTQ+ youth who seriously considered taking their own life jumped to 45 percent, up from 40 percent in 2020 and 42 percent in 2021. The Trevor Project gathered data from close to 34,000 LGBTQ+ 13- to 24-year-olds for their 2022 survey.

The annual report also shows an increasing trend of LGBTQ+ youth unable to access mental health support. Two years ago, 46 percent of LGBTQ+ youth who wanted mental health counseling were unable to receive it. Last year, that number slightly grew to 48 percent – and then spiked to roughly 60 percent by this year’s report. 

About half of LGBTQ+ youth said fear of sharing their mental health concerns with another person was a major hurdle to accessing care, and 45 percent said they were worried about being denied parental consent. About 43 percent said they were concerned their issues would not be taken seriously if shared with a professional and, for 41 percent of LGBTQ+ youth in the U.S., mental health care is simply not affordable.

The impact of current events like the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic or recent state legislative actions to check the rights of LGBTQ+ young people – especially transgender and nonbinary minors – cannot be ignored, Trevor Project researchers acknowledged.

“Recent political attacks aimed at transgender and nonbinary youth have not only threatened their access to health care, support systems, and affirming spaces at school, they’ve also negatively impacted their mental health,” Jonah DeChants, a research scientist at The Trevor Project, said Wednesday.

More than 90 percent of transgender and nonbinary youth surveyed by The Trevor Project said they were worried they may soon be denied access to gender-affirming care or access to gender-segregated facilities like restrooms consistent with their gender identity because of pending state or local legislation.

Another 83 percent said they were concerned about other efforts to ban transgender athletes from competing on school sports teams. Upwards of 16 states have already passed laws barring transgender students from playing on sports teams consistent with their gender identity, and at least a dozen others are considering enacting similar measures.

LGBTQ+ youth also experience unique challenges, like being physically threatened or harmed, discriminated against or subjected to conversion therapy. Those who reported experiencing anti-LGBTQ+ victimization in the last year were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide compared with those who did not.

“We must recognize that LGBTQ young people face stressors simply for being who they are that their peers never have to worry about,” Amit Paley, the CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project, said Wednesday.

About 31 percent of LGBTQ+ youth said they had been physically harmed or threatened over their sexual orientation and 37 percent reported being harassed over their gender identity, including 55 percent of transgender men and boys and 47 percent of transgender women and girls.

More than 70 percent of LGBTQ+ youth said they experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity at least once in their lifetime, according to the report. Broken down by race and ethnicity, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) LGBTQ+ youth were among the most likely to report experiencing some form of discrimination, coinciding with an uptick in anti-Asian hate crimes over the last year.

Native American and Indigenous LGBTQ+ youth also reported high rates of discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity, as did Black, Middle Eastern and Northern African, Latinx and multiracial LGBTQ+ youth.

Roughly 17 percent of LGBTQ+ young people surveyed by The Trevor Project said they had been either threatened with or subjected to conversion therapy – a pseudoscientific and discredited practice aiming to change a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity – including more than 20 percent of transgender and nonbinary youth.

Close to 30 percent of LGBTQ+ youth subjected to conversion therapy also attempted to commit suicide, according to the report, as did 27 percent of those threatened with conversion therapy.

According to researchers at The Trevor Project, LGBTQ+ young people reported significantly lower rates of attempting suicide when they lived in a community accepting of their identity. Still, close to 40 percent of LGBTQ+ youth said they lived in areas either “somewhat or very” unaccepting of LGBTQ+ people.

More than half of LGBTQ+ youth identified their schools as “affirming,” including 51 percent of transgender and nonbinary young people. That’s soon subject to change, as states like Florida and Alabama continue to pass legislation outlawing classroom instruction related to sexual orientation and gender identity.

The Trevor Project this year also collected data on where LGBTQ+ most often found “moments of joy,” with some of the most popular responses being seeing positive LGBTQ+ representation in media, journaling, listening to music, playing with pets and having a doctor who is an LGBTQ+ ally.

“The fact that very simple things — like support from family and friends, seeing LGBTQ representation in media, and having your gender expression and pronouns respected — can have such a positive impact on the mental health of an LGBTQ young person is inspiring,” Paley said Wednesday. “And it should command more attention in conversations around suicide prevention and public debates around LGBTQ inclusion.”