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New research from The Trevor Project highlights some of the biggest factors that are negatively affecting mental health and increasing the risk of suicide for LGBTQ+ youth. AHPhotoswpg/Getty Images
  • The Trevor Project has published its 2024 National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ+ Young People.
  • The annual report highlights how factors like home life, school environment, and anti-LGBTQ+ legislation can affect mental health and the risk of suicide for young people.
  • Over 18,000 LGBTQ+ youth, ages 13 to 24, participated in the 2024 survey.

National nonprofit The Trevor Project has published its 2024 U.S. National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ+ Young People.

Ronita Nath, PhD, vice president of research at The Trevor Project, told Healthline that a “big takeaway” from the sixth annual poll shows that “time and time again, LGBTQ+ young people are not inherently prone to increased suicide risk because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.” Instead, she said these young people are “placed at higher risk because of the stigma and discrimination” they experience in society at large.

For example, the survey found that young people who are physically harmed or receive threats of physical harm as a result of their gender identity or sexual orientation had a threefold increase in the rate of attempting suicide compared to their heterosexual and cisgender peers.

While the new survey reflects how the current national mood can impact everything from anxiety to suicide risk, it also highlights the positive effects of creating affirming, supportive spaces for LGBTQ+ youth at home and in school.

How the 2024 Survey was conducted and what it found

Over 18,000 LGBTQ+ youth, ages 13 to 24, participated in the 2024 survey. Answers were collected between September 13 and December 16, 2023.

Among the findings, the survey shows that 39% of the respondents said they seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. Zeroing in further, this includes 46% of transgender and nonbinary youth.

The survey also shows that 12% of respondents attempted suicide in the past year.

Among the other top-line findings:

  • 90% of LGBTQ+ young people reported their well-being was negatively impacted due to recent politics.
  • 45% of transgender and nonbinary youth reported that they and their family considered moving to a different state due to anti-LGBTQ+ laws and policies.
  • 49% of LGBTQ+ young people from 13 to 17 reported they experienced bullying in the past year, which dovetails with higher rates of reporting that they attempted suicide in the past year.
  • 50% of respondents who said they wanted mental health care in the past year were unable to get it.
  • LGBTQ+ youth who reported living in communities that accepted their identities reported attempting suicide at less than half the rate of those who said they lived in unaccepting communities.

How minority stress can increase health risks

Chase Anderson, MD, MS, assistant professor of clinical psychiatry in the division of child and adolescent psychiatry at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF), who is unaffiliated with The Trevor Project, said that “not enough is being done nationally to address the mental health crisis among LGBTQ+ people — especially among youth with intersecting identities.

The survey reveals some of the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ young people who inhabit identities in addition to their sexual and gender identities that can face added stigma.

For example, the poll found that young people of color considered attempting suicide at higher rates than their white peers.

“Many studies have demonstrated that holding more than one minoritized identity can leave the person more vulnerable than having only one minoritized identity,” Anderson said. “Two factors noted to decrease the effects of minority stress and their outcomes are community and pride. Community can consist of people who hold those similar identities or people who are supportive and allies. Pride means the internal sense of self that someone holds, an acceptance of self, an ability to live openly and authentically.”

Anderson pointed to resources like GLAAD, GLSEN, and The Human Rights Campaign, where LGBTQ+ youth of color could turn if they are looking for support and community.

Nath said that it is important to note that the survey also showed just 40% of the LGBTQ+ youth surveyed said they found their homes to be affirming, which underscores the need to create safer spaces for this particular population of youth.

“We know from our research that affirming environments, affirming schools, affirming homes make a difference. Our survey shows that young people who had access to affirming schools and homes experienced lower rates of attempting suicide in the past year,” Nath said.

How the current national climate is affecting LGBTQ+ youth

In this current politically charged era, the survey pinpoints just how broadly LGBTQ+ youth are impacted by national politics.

Nath said that, right now, 24 states have passed laws that ban or criminalize “best practices in essential medical care for transgender and nonbinary young people.”

While this kind of gender-affirming care dominates headlines, Nath said only a small subset of the population seeks this care, yet they receive a disproportionate amount of negative national political attention.

For example, Nath said the poll found that 13% of young people were on hormones, and only 2% reported taking puberty blockers. However, “as we get closer to a major election season this fall, we do expect LGBTQ+ young people to continue to be discussed, debated, and unfairly targeted.”

Hearing their identities constantly examined and dissected can be challenging for impressionable young people, but Anderson pointed out that parents and mentors can help in many ways.

“Reminding LGBTQ+ youth they did not cause these issues in America is one way to continually remind them that this is not their shame to bear,” Anderson explained.

He also pointed out that simply listening to what LGBTQ+ youth have to say can help them feel supported and heard.

Furthermore, helping them connect with organizations like local LGBTQ+ youth groups or youth activities that foster a sense of community, support, and belonging can also help counteract some of the stress they may be feeling.

Building a better future for LGBTQ+ youth

Nath said that surveys like this can offer a call to action for change.

This could entail a number of things. It might mean change at the legislative level, how we all advocate for LGBTQ+ youth in our personal orbits, the need to contact legislators “to fight back against anti-LGBTQ+ policies, and encouraging “schools to implement the school district policies that prioritize suicide preventions and intersectional approaches to mental health care.”

Nath said schools, in particular, need to enact “zero tolerance policies for anti-LGBTQ+ bullying,” especially given how research shows this type of harassment can negatively affect mental health and increase suicide risk.

One step in the right direction could be supporting programs and resources like gender and sexuality alliances where students can find a sense of community and support from each other.

For adults who want to offer support but don’t know how exactly to go about it, Nath said to listen to the young people around you and be receptive.

“I think folks should turn to resources on how to be allies. We have these resources on our website,” Nath said. “I think…at the very basic level, they [adults and allies] should try to learn more about LGBTQ+ identities, learn the terms, learn to speak respectfully to LGBTQ+ young people about their identities and be welcoming to their friends and their partners,” Nath added. “Those are some smaller steps we can take.”