Not just one factor: LGBTQ teen suicide rates dropping

It is easy for people (and the media) to blame suicide on one factor — like bullying. But suicide is complex, and usually involves a mix of factors such as depression and anxiety. Similarly, it is also easy for people to praise one factor for decreasing suicide rates. A recent Los Angeles Times article highlights a study showing that same-sex marriage laws helped reduce suicide attempts by gay, lesbian and bisexual teens. Author Melissa Healy explores the lower suicide rates in gay, lesbian and bisexual teens in relation to same-sex marriage laws.

In the article, public health specialist Mark L. Hatzenbuehler discusses how no one factor alone can explain suicide, but that the stigma against gays, lesbians, and bisexuals in the form of state law is a large possible factor for suicidal behavior in LGBTQ communities.

In a study that tested gay, lesbian, and bisexual teen suicides within states that passed marriage equality laws and compared those rates to states that did not have marriage equality laws, the rates of teen suicides within that community fell 14% in states that had passed same sex marriage laws. This is a huge deal for members of the LGBTQ community, especially now that same sex marriage is legal in all 50 states.

That being said, helping lower suicide rates means using a combination of suicide prevention measures. When North Carolina passed an anti-transgender bathroom law earlier this year, the Trans Lifeline calls doubled. “If I had to guess what’s being impacted I think [it’s] probably people’s hope for the future,” said Greta Gustava Martela, co-founder of Trans Lifeline. So, although passing gender-friendly laws is a big factor to helping lower the risk of suicide in the LGBTQ communities, so is having crisis hotlines like the Trans Lifeline.

In short: The more suicide prevention factors there are in place, the greater chance that we as a community have for lowering the risk of suicide.

According to Mental Health America, people that are considering suicide might not call a crisis hotline, but people do usually seek help. For example, 64 percent of people who attempt suicide visit a doctor in the month before their attempt, and 38 percent in the week before.

Communities benefit from a variety of factors like gender-friendly laws, crisis hotlines, trained professionals (like doctors, physicians, and teachers) who know how to talk to people considering suicide, and programs in place to also help lower the risk of suicide.In Washington State, we luckily do have marriage equality laws, crisis hotlines, trainings, and programs to all together help lower the risk of suicide. There is always more that we can do and more that we should do as a community, and that is why Forefront is always looking for new ways to help those struggling with suicide.