The results of the third annual report from The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization that runs a suicide hotline for LGBTQ+ youth, are shocking. According to the survey, which tracked the mental health of queer youth ages 13-24, more than half of transgender and non-binary youth and 42 percent of all LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year.
Almost one-third, or 31 percent, of indigenous LGBTQ+ youth reported attempting suicide, followed by 21 percent each of Black and multiracial LGBTQ youth, and 18 percent of Latino LGBTQ+ youth -- all greater than the 12 percent of white, Asian American and Pacific Islander LGBTQ+ youth. More than nine out of 10 LGBTQ+ youth said recent politics negatively affected their mental health.
The data draws from online surveys of nearly 35,000 youth conducted between October and December 2020. "You can see this as wave upon wave, just building and building, until for a lot of LGBTQ youth it just feels like it's too much," says Sam Brinton, the Trevor Project's Vice President of Advocacy and Government Affairs.
Only one in three LGBTQ+ youth said their home was LGBTQ-affirming, although the survey found that youth whose pronouns were respected and who were allowed to change their legal markers were less likely to attempt suicide.
What can your business do? How can you help?
First, be mindful of your language. When you speak about this population, do so kindly. Jokes or comments made may not be intentionally harmful, but they can harm. Some feel as if such jokes are fine if everyone knows they are jokes or if no LGBT+ individuals are in the conversation, but they perpetuate homophobia, transphobia and a culture that some people are lesser than others.
In addition, be mindful of your language about suicide. It used to be referred to as "committing suicide" but we now know that this is hurtful as it both criminalizes the person's death, and it removes the humanity from it. When someone dies by suicide, they were not selfish or short-sighted, they were in significant pain, may have had a mental illness (diagnosed or undiagnosed), and those who love(d) them are grieving.
You also want to be mindful that quips about how some type of task or conversation "makes me want to kill myself" or miming a gun to the head to a co-worker may cause significant harm to others who are not safe or who are grieving a loss to suicide.
Next, think about what your company can do to support mental health. When there is a culture of taking mental health seriously, you guide your adult employees to also be more caring about the mental health of others, including their kids. You can do this by not questioning someone's need to use PTO or a sick day. Those who need breaks for mental health reasons often do not take them out of fear of how to explain them when questioned. Letting employees know they won't be interrogated and encouraging them to take time when they need helps to support mental health amongst staff.
You can also choose to support a mental health charity. As we focus on LGBT+ youth, The Trevor Project is a great option, as is TransKids Purple Rainbow Foundation. Each of these orgs support the mental healthcare of LGBT+ youth by affirming them and supporting their needs. Some companies offer opportunities to wear jeans or a silly hat or a costume to the office if the employee buys the right to do so, with the money going toward a charity. Others have a fun run for charity. There are also companies that choose charities to support with annual donations or offer an opportunity for employees to donate a portion of each paycheck to a designated beneficiary. In each of these cases, intentionally choosing an organization that supports LGBT+ youth helps to care for youth in crisis and in need.
Lastly, be proactive! While donating to crisis support is critical in saving lives at risk, your company can choose to support the success of LGBT+ youth. You can reach out to your local schools and offer to advertise in the schools' student newspapers or to their school plays or to fund awards ceremonies for successful students. You can also choose to offer internships to LGBT+ youth, allowing them to see themselves as productive career professionals.
Whatever method(s) you choose, prioritizing and supporting LGBT+ youth allows them to see that businesses and business leaders value them and their lives, which can result in the lessening of both self-harm and in suicidality.
If you or a loved one is in crisis, please call theNational Suicide Prevention Lifelineat 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact theCrisis Text Lineby texting TALKto 74174. You can also contact The Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386 or TheTrevorProject.org.
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