Suicide Prevention for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Questioning (LGBTQ) Students

General Risk Factors for Suicidal Behavior among Students

Additional Specific Risk Factors for LGBTQ Students

Specific Protective Factors for LGBTQ Students

Know the Warning Signs

Suicide Prevention Starts with Understanding Depression

Common Concerns among LGBTQ Students and Other Students Who Experience Depression

You Can Help

Find Someone Else Who Can Help and Don't Hesitate to Ask Questions

People Who Can Help

Student Support Numbers and Mental Health Services

LGBTQ student have unique personal strengths and often have strong support networks through family, friends, and various organizations. However, LGBTQ students often deal with many additional stressors at some point during their lives due to predjudice and discrimination related to sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression. Such stressors may place LGBTQ students at higher risk for mental health concerns and suicide. Although it is important to recognize criticisms of research concerned with the mental health of LGBTQ youth (i.e., that it is often based on nonrepresentative samples, fails to recognize the diversity that exists among LGBTQ individuals, and fails to distinguish between identity and behavior), studies nevertheless suggest that sexual minority youth may be at particularly high risk for suicidal thoughts and attempts. Further, some research suggests that female and male individuals who identify as bisexual, as well as gay males, may attempt suicide more often than other sexual minority youth.

LGBTQ students face problems similar to those experienced by other students, including relationship and family problems, academic and career concerns, anxiety, and depression. LGBTQ students’ problems may be compounded by additional risk factors including discrimination and prejudice, victimization or bullying, loss of friends or family during the coming-out process, lack of culturally relevant physical or mental health care, and more. Individual differences associated with religious and cultural beliefs also may further impact well-being (see below).

Similar to other students, a number of personal and environmental factors can help protect LGBTQ students from mental health problems and risk of suicide (see protective factors below). One factor that could be especially helpful for LGBQ students is family connectedness. 

GENERAL RISK FACTORS FOR SUICIDAL BEHAVIOR AMONG STUDENTS

(expected to vary by individual differences such as culture, religion, gender, etc.)

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Hopelessness

  • Impulsive or aggressive tendencies

  • Substance use/abuse

  • Previous suicide attempt or previous thoughts of killing oneself

  • Coping style in which problems are kept inside/unexpressed

  • Low self-esteem and lack of self-efficacy

  • Feelings of loneliness, guilt, shame, or inadequacy

  • Academic concerns

  • Financial concerns
 
  • Conflicts with friends, roommates, peers, or partner

  • Recent loss (e.g., death or breakup)

  • Social isolation, particularly from family or spiritual community

  • Conflict with parents about choice of academic major, career, or dating partner

  • History of physical or sexual abuse

  • Family history of depression and/or suicide

  • Easy access to firearms or other lethal methods

  • Unwillingness to seek help because of shame in seeking mental health services

  • Lack of access to mental health care


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Additional Specific Risk Factors for LGBTQ Students
(expected to vary by individual differences such as culture, religion, gender, etc.)


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Specific Protective Factors for LGBTQ Students
(expected to vary by individual differences such as culture, religion, gender, etc.)


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Know the Warning Signs

Although all individuals, including LGBTQ students, may vary in how they respond to suicidal thoughts, there are common warning signs that may suggest a student is considering suicide. In particular, it is important to notice and follow up when someone you know is acting out of character. An individual may be at risk for suicide if he or she:

WARNING SIGNS

  • Experiences feelings of hopelessness and helplessness

  • Reports feeling very depressed

  • Experiences anxiety and/or stress

  • Increases their use of alcohol and/or other drugs

  • Engages in reckless behaviors

  • Has physical symptoms (headaches, GI distress, aches and pains)

  • Withdraws from family, community, or friends, and from activities once enjoyed

 
  • Says things such as, “I don’t deserve to be here,” “I wish I were dead,” “I am going to kill myself,” or “I want to die.”

  • Is focused on death and dying

  • Talks about wanting to commit suicide

  • Writes poems, letters, or stories about death and/or suicide

  • Starts giving away possessions

  • Prepares for death by making out a will


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Suicide Prevention Starts with Understanding Depression

Depression is a condition that affects people of all ages, genders, races, religions, and sexual orientations. Contrary to what some assume, a person with depression may find it hard simply to “get over it” or “snap out of it” any more than someone with a medical problem can get over his or her illness. Depression can be passed from one generation to the next; sometimes stress or other life events trigger depression or depression results from a combination of factors. When someone is depressed, he or she typically feels a sadness that lasts longer than a few days or weeks, and this state of mind can be accompanied by thoughts of wanting to hurt or kill oneself. Alcohol and drugs may make feelings of depression even worse. Fortunately, depression can be treated.

Recognizing depression is a critical first step in getting yourself or someone you know the help needed. It is important to keep in mind that friends or loved ones may not know how to ask for help, so understanding what to look for is important.


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Common concerns among LGBTQ students who experience depression

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You Can Help

First and foremost, take concerns about suicidal behavior seriously. It is always better to overreact than underreact to someone’s suicidal thoughts. Here are some things you can do when someone you know is thinking about suicide:

WAYS TO HELP

  • Listen and accept the other person’s feelings

  • Take the person's feelings and concerns seriously
  • Express your care and concern

  • Be empathetic

  • Try not to judge or argue

  • Do not allow yourself to be sworn to secrecy

  • Don’t act shocked by their plans

 
  • Never dare someone to kill themselves

  • Offer to go with the person to seek help from his or her parents, partner, or other family members, friends, a counselor, spiritual leader, or other source of support

  • If possible, do not leave the person alone

  • Seek support or advice from others


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Find Someone Else Who Can Help and Don’t Hesitate to Ask Questions

PEOPLE WHO CAN HELP

  • Counseling or Psychological Center

  • Resident Advisers

  • Office of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Life

  • An office that displays an Emory Safe Space Sticker

 
  • Office of Religious Life

  • Campus Security

  • Family Members

  • Friends

  • Crisis Line

  • Hospital Emergency Room


Student Support Numbers and Mental Health Services

(Please note that these resources typically operate during business hours only; for 24/7 support, call one of the emergency numbers listed below.)

 

Emergency Numbers

Additional Resources for LGBTQ Students

Posters to add to our site:

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