LOS ANGELES— New analysis of responses to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS) shows that transgender respondents who experienced rejection by family and friends, discrimination, victimization, or violence have a higher risk of attempting suicide. 78 percent of survey respondents who suffered physical or sexual violence at school reported suicide attempts, as did 65 percent of respondents who experienced violence at work. The analysis is part of a new study conducted by Ann P. Haas and Philip L. Rodgers of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention and Jody L. Herman of UCLA Law School’s Williams Institute.
“This study outlines the potential links between minority stressors and suicidal behavior among transgender and gender non-conforming individuals,” said Herman. “More research is needed, but this is a critical first step in efforts to address the negative mental health impacts of anti-transgender discrimination.”
The study suggests that several minority stressors – negative experiences related to anti-transgender bias – may contribute to elevated prevalence of suicide attempts among transgender people, such as experiences of harassment, family rejection, housing instability, and discrimination in health care. Over half of those who experienced harassment or bullying in schools reported lifetime suicide attempts, as did 57 percent of those who reported that their family chose not to speak/spend time with them. High prevalence of suicide attempts was also found among those who had ever experienced homelessness (69%) and those who reported a doctor or healthcare provider refused to treat them (60%).
“We know from studies of other vulnerable populations that environmental stressors can have a profound impact on individuals’ mental health and well-being, and in turn, on suicidal behavior,” said Haas. Our findings suggest the need for a closer look at how anti-transgender bias, depression and despair interact to produce the alarmingly high suicide attempt rates among transgender people.”
Other key findings include:
- Suicide attempts among trans men (46%) and trans women (42%) were slightly higher than the full sample (41%). Cross-dressers assigned male at birth have the lowest reported prevalence of suicide attempts among gender identity groups (21%).
- Prevalence of suicide attempts is elevated among those who disclose to everyone that they are transgender or gender-non-conforming (50%) and among those that report others can tell always (42%) or most of the time (45%) that they are transgender or gender non-conforming even if they don’t tell them.
- Respondents who are HIV-positive (51%) and respondents with disabilities (55-65%) also have elevated prevalence of suicide attempts. In particular, 65 percent of those with a mental health condition that substantially affects a major life activity reported attempting suicide.
- Respondents who experienced discrimination, or violence by law enforcement had elevated prevalence of suicide attempts:
- Disrespected or harassed by law enforcement officers: 57-61 percent.
- Suffered physical or sexual violence by law enforcement officers: 60-70 percent.
The study utilized data collected through the National Transgender Discrimination Survey (NTDS), which was conducted by the National Center for Transgender Equality and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force. 6,456 transgender and gender non-conforming people in the United States reported on their experiences of discrimination and abuse at work, at home, in school, and in the public sphere, amassing the largest transgender survey sample to date.