Pride Month is a time of celebration, solidarity, and reflection for the LGBTQ+ community and its allies across the world. While we come together to honour diversity and fight for equality, it is crucial that we also address the sobering reality of LGBTQ+ suicide statistics.
The LGBTQ+ community is diverse and made up of different experiences, identities, and challenges. However, members of the community are disproportionately at-risk of suicide and a range of mental health struggles.
According to a report created by LGBT+ charity Stonewall, and market research film YouGov, the risk of suicide among LGBTQ+ individuals, particularly young people, is alarmingly high. Below we explore the challenges faced by LGBTQ+ community that puts them at a higher risk and discuss ways to support LGBTQ+ youth and protect them against suicidal behaviour.
Understanding the statistics
According to Stonewall, the largest LGBT rights organisation in Europe, LGBTQ+ children and young people experience particularly high rates of poor mental health. Research has shown that LGBTQ+ youth, in particular, face a greater likelihood of experiencing depression, anxiety, and social isolation due to factors such as stigma, discrimination, and lack of acceptance. In some cases, mental health issues can contribute to a person’s risk of suicidal thoughts by making them feel hopeless, helpless, and alone.
Stonewall’s statistics found that three in five ‘LGB’ (as referred to by Stonewall) young people have deliberately harmed themselves at some point. For trans young people, this figure is 84 per cent. More than one in five LGB young people and more than two in five trans young people have attempted to take their own life. One in three non-binary young people and nearly half of disabled LGBT young people have tried to take their own life.
By understanding these statistics, as a society we can better comprehend the urgent need for support systems, resources, and policies that protect LGBTQ+ youth.
What issues might LGBTQ+ people face?
- Violence, harassment and hate crime: Those within the LGBTQ+ community are disproportionately likely to experience violence and harassment, both online and offline. According to a 2017 report by Stonewall, one in four LGBTQ+ people have experienced a hate crime in the past year. ‘Hate crimes’ are crimes committed against people because of their race, sexuality, religion, gender identity or disability. Members of the LGBTIQ+ community are at a greater risk of experiencing hate crimes compared to heterosexual people. Certain LGBTIQ+ groups are at particular risk, including gay men, young people and those who are from Black, Asian and ethnic minority groups. If you have experienced a hate crime, report it by calling 999 in an emergency or 101 at other times to contact your local police force. Stonewall has information on more ways to report hate crimes.
- Mental health issues: As mentioned above, LGBTQ+ people are at a higher risk of experiencing poor mental health to those who identify as heterosexual and cis-gender. A study by Stonewall found that over 2018 half of LGBTQ+ people had experienced depression, and three in five had experienced anxiety, one in eight LGBTQ+ people aged 18 to 24 had attempted to end their life and almost half of trans people had thought about taking their life.
- Discrimination in employment, housing, and education: LGBTQ+ people are still more likely to face discrimination in employment, housing, and education than heterosexual people. Stonewall’s 2018 LGBT in Britain – Work Report found that almost one in five LGBT staff (18%) have been the target of negative comments or conduct from work colleagues in the last year because they’re LGBT, and one in eight trans people (12%) have been physically attacked by customers or colleagues in the year of the study because of being trans.
- Lack of access to healthcare: LGBTQ+ people are more likely to experience mental health problems and substance misuse than heterosexual people. They are also more likely to have difficulty accessing healthcare services that are tailored to their needs. Stonewall found around one in eight LGBTQ+ people have experienced unequal treatment from healthcare staff because they are LGBTQ+. One in seven have avoided treatment for fear of discrimination.
- Social isolation: LGBTQ+ people are more likely to experience social isolation than heterosexual people. This can be due to a number of factors, including discrimination, lack of support networks, and fear of coming out.
Ways to support LGBTQ+ youth and protect against suicidal behaviour
There is still more work to be done to ensure that LGBTQ+ people are treated equally in all areas of life. However, the progress that has been made in recent years is a positive sign that things are moving in the right direction.
Here are some things that you can do to support LGBTQ+ people:
Be an ally
An ally is someone who stands up for the rights of LGBTQ+ people. You can be an ally by speaking out against discrimination, challenging stereotypes, and supporting LGBTQ+ people in your life. Publicly show your support for the LGBTQ+ community. Ensure that you are supporting loved ones by affirming their identity, using their pronouns, and being committed to providing a non-judgemental and safe space for all. You can take a more active role by getting involved in your community; you may do this by volunteering with an LGBTQ+ organisation, attend events, or simply start a conversation with someone you know who is LGBTQ+.
Take the initiative to learn about the experiences, challenges, and terminology related to LGBTQ+ identities. Familiarise yourself with different sexual orientations, gender identities, and the issues faced by LGBTQ+ individuals.
Being an ally and supporting LGBTQ+ people isn’t just about educating yourself, but also those around you. Take the opportunity to educate friends, family members, colleagues, and others about LGBTQ+ issues. Share accurate information, encourage dialogue, dispel myths, challenge stereotypes, and help create a more inclusive and accepting society. If you are in a position to do so, promote LGBTQ+ inclusive education in schools and colleges to foster understanding and acceptance among students, teachers, and parents.
Listen and validate
Be an active part of your loved ones’ support systems and check in with them often. Create opportunities for LGBTQ+ individuals to share their experiences and concerns. Actively listen without judgement and validate their feelings and identities. Show empathy and support by acknowledging their experiences and advocating for their rights. If they show any suicidal invitations, be direct and ask. Tell them it’s OK to talk about suicidal feelings. Listen to their story without offering advice or judgement.
Create a safe space
Foster an environment where LGBTQ+ individuals feel safe, welcomed, and included. Be aware of discriminatory or derogatory comments, and intervene when necessary to address any homophobic, biphobic, or transphobic language or behaviour. Promote a culture of acceptance, respect, and celebration of diversity within families, schools, workplaces, and communities. By embracing LGBTQ+ individuals for who they are, we foster an environment that reduces stigma and supports mental wellbeing.
Use inclusive language
Be mindful of the language you use and avoid making assumptions about someone’s gender identity or sexual orientation. Respect individuals’ chosen pronouns and use inclusive language that acknowledges and affirms their identities.
Offer support and resources
Familiarise yourself with local LGBTQ+ organisations, counselling services, and support groups. Share this information with LGBTQ+ individuals who may benefit from these resources. Provide a listening ear and offer support whenever you can.
Advocate for LGBTQ+ rights
Participate in efforts to promote LGBTQ+ equality and advocate for inclusive policies and laws. Support initiatives that address discrimination, promote equal rights, and protect LGBTQ+ individuals from harassment and violence.
By taking these steps, you can help to create a more inclusive and supportive environment for LGBTQ+ people in the UK.
As we celebrate Pride Month, it is crucial to remember that the fight for LGBTQ+ equality extends beyond the festivities. By highlighting LGBTQ+ suicide statistics and implementing measures to support and protect the community, we can create a society where all individuals, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, feel valued, accepted, and safe. Let us stand together, be allies, and work towards a future where LGBTQ+ young people can thrive, free from the burden of suicidal thoughts and behaviour.