(Gray News) – Every 45 seconds, a young member of the LGBTQ+ community attempts suicide.
That’s according to The Trevor Project, an organization that focuses on suicide prevention for those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or another nontraditional orientation (LGBTQ+).
The importance of mental health has become especially prevalent in the era of the COVID-19 pandemic. While many focus on maintaining their own mental health, some members of the community may have a more difficult time than others due to a lack of resources and support.
Suicide is one of the leading causes of death for young people between the ages of 10 and 24, according to The Trevor Project, and those who identify as LGBTQ+ are at a significantly higher risk.
Kollyn Conrad is the founder and executive director of Publicly Private, a nonprofit organization with the mission to provide online support and resources to people who identify as LGBTQ+. He said there are a number of factors that can contribute to an increased risk of suicide for many in the community.
Some factors include bullying in schools, cyberbullying, a lack of affirmation of personal identities, and environments that may push back against their self-expression. Many in the community may also find themselves without much in the way of real-life support where they live.
“Feeling different growing up is hard, but then you place the orientation aspect of your identity into it and … it’s not really discussed that there are different ways people can identify sexually,” Conrad said. “So that often leaves one feeling isolated.”
According to The Trevor Project, LGBTQ+ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide, with more than 1.8 million between the ages of 13 and 24 considering suicide every year in the U.S.
Conrad said the problem could worsen with a growing community as more and more people identify with nontraditional genders and orientations.
“So where are we gonna be at next year?” Conrad said. “We can stand up and try to help and support the community now, or we’re gonna have a huge problem on our hands in the coming years.”
As a gay man who grew up in the Bible belt of the American South, Conrad said he’s no stranger to the feelings of isolation that comes with having a different identity.
“You see that religion is a big aspect of people’s lives,” Conrad said. “So you start to kind of put the factors that it’s not being discussed to a lot of people’s viewpoints around, you are very much against anybody identifying a certain way. It leaves you in this space of feeling isolated and that you have to suppress yourself.”
Conrad isn’t without possible solutions to the growing issue. He said anyone who wants to help support the LGBTQ+ community could start by finding nonprofits that align with their values and advocate for additional studies and surveys to be conducted on the growing community.
He said schools could also contribute by implementing gay-straight alliances to create safer spaces for those who identify with the LGBTQ+ community, along with tackling in-school and online bullying.
For more immediate support, The Trevor Project can provide direct emotional support via a confidential texting service as well as a suicide hotline that specifically caters to the LGBTQ+ community.
“Those two are basically perfect for anyone that is really in a crisis moment and needs to reach someone fast,” Conrad said.
If you or someone you know is in need of help, the Suicide Prevention Hotline is available by calling 988. Additional support can be found by chatting with an online counselor.
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