Kids who are gay, bisexual or questioning their sexuality may be vulnerable to contemplating suicide at a tender age, a new U.S. government study finds.
It has long been known that teenagers who are part of sexual minorities have a higher risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors, compared to their heterosexual peers. That includes kids who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or questioning.
Experts say the new findings — published online Sept. 27 in the journal Pediatrics — add another layer: Those kids also start to grapple with suicidal thoughts at a younger age — with an increased risk appearing as early as age 10.
What’s more, they typically progressed more quickly from the “thinking” stage to actually planning for suicide.
“They are at relatively higher risk of suicidality, but the majority of LGBTQ youth do well,” Brian Mustanski, director of the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing at Northwestern University in Chicago says.
It’s important to recognize the increased risk, and that it begins early, according to Mustanski.
Who’s at risk?
- Kids who have unsupportive parents: Dr. Pamela Murray, from Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, notes that sexual minority kids are “over-represented” among the homeless population specifically because their families rejected them.
- Kids who are bullied: School anti-bullying programs could be one important part of prevention.
Detecting suicidal behavior
Overall, 26% of sexual minority teens say they’ve thought about suicide — double the rate of their heterosexual peers. Similarly, almost 17% had made a