LGBT Suicide and Suicide Risk: From Knowledge to Prevention

LGBT Suicide and Suicide Risk: From Knowledge to Prevention

In 2007, AFSP began a broad initiative to increase knowledge about suicide and suicide risk in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) persons, and take steps to reduce that risk.

The initiative was launched with a consensus conference co-sponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center. Two dozen invited suicide and health researchers, clinicians, educators and policy advocates attended the conference. The 2007 consensus conference summarized and discussed research findings, made recommendations for closing knowledge gaps, and initiated a discussion about how research findings could be used to reduce suicidal behavior in LGBT people.

Following two years of continued discussions among the consensus experts, findings were published in January 2010:

Haas, A.P., Eliason, M., Mays, V.M., Mathy, R.M., Cochran, S.D., D'Augelli, A.R., Silverman, M.M., Fisher, P.W., Hughes, T., Rosario, M., Russell, S.T., Malley, E., Reed, J., Litts, D.A., Haller, E., Sell, R.L., Remafedi, G., Bradford, J., Beautrais, A.L., Brown, G.K., Diamond, G.M., Friedman, M.S., Garofalo, R., Turner, M.S., Hollibaugh, A. and Clayton, P.J. (2011) Suicide and suicide risk in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender populations: review and recommendations, Journal of Homosexuality, 58: 1, 10–51.

Since 2009, AFSP has been working to implement the recommendations made by the consensus group. Funded by the Johnson Family Foundation, the LGBT Knowledge to Prevention Initiative seeks to stimulate a national LGBT suicide prevention effort by bringing together leading LGBT and national suicide prevention organizations.

The following products and projects have grown out of the LGBT Initiative:

Safe Messaging About LGBT Suicide

Safe and accurate messages about suicide protect the health and safety of vulnerable LGBT individuals, and inform LGBT communities and the general public about the risk and protective factors for LGBT suicide.

Talking About Suicide and LGBT Populations

Talking About Suicide and LGBT Populations provides the media and LGBT organizations with detailed recommendations for discussing LGBT suicide safely and accurately. The guide informs the public conversation about LGBT wellness and encourages those who are at risk for suicide to seek help. It was developed by a coalition that included AFSP, the Johnson Family Foundation, and seven leading LGBT organizations, including:

  • Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD)            
  • Movement Advancement Project (MAP)
  • Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN)
  • Human Rights Campaign
  • National Gay and Lesbian Task Force
  • Parents, Families & Friends of Lesbians and Gays
  • The Trevor Project

Addressing LGBT Suicide in the National Strategies for Suicide Prevention

Working in conjunction with the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention Task Force on LGBT Populations, AFSP has spearheaded the effort to have LGBT populations identified among other at-risk populations in the 2012 revision of the U.S. National Strategy for Suicide Prevention. The country measures the success of its National Strategy by decreases in suicide rates among the population groups identified as at risk. Currently, however, we are unable to determine LGBT suicide rates since sexual orientation and gender identity are not identified in the standard death certificate. AFSP is leading a pilot project that will develop and test a methodology for systematically gathering this information in a selected state.

AFSP Chapter-Sponsored Conferences on LGBT Suicide and Suicide Risk

Since 2011, several AFSP chapters have sponsored educational conferences on LGBT suicide and suicide risk. Through our partnerships with local LGBT organizations and advocates, AFSP chapters seek to raise awareness about LGBT suicide risk, bring research results to the attention of professionals and the public, and explore new strategies for LGBT suicide prevention in local communities.

Research Advances and Advocacy

The LGBT Initiative has supported AFSP’s efforts to encourage new research on LGBT suicide and suicide risk and the identification of sexual orientation and gender identity in AFSP funded studies. We have also helped advance AFSP’s advocacy for federal and state anti-bullying and school safety legislation, and wider identification of sexual orientation and gender identity in federal health and mental health surveys.