LGBTQ students with campus mental health services have lower suicide attempt rates, survey finds

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Dive Brief:

  • LGBTQ students with access to mental health services through their colleges were 84% less likely to attempt suicide in the past year than their counterparts that went without. 
  • That’s according to new research from The Trevor Project, a nonprofit focused on mental health in LGBTQ youth. Around four in 10 LGBTQ students who attended colleges without LGBTQ-specific student services seriously considered suicide in 2021. Among LGBTQ students who could access campus services designed for them, that number dropped to 30%.
  • To combat the risk of student suicide, colleges should increase service accessibility by providing LGBTQ-inclusive health services and incorporating LGBTQ-specific resources into their counseling centers, according to the report.

Dive Insight:

In 2021, an overwheling majority of LGBTQ students, 89%, said their college was accepting of LGBTQ people, according to the report. But only 63% of respondents said that their colleges offered LGBTQ-specific services, such as LGBTQ centers or student affinity groups.

Researchers analyzed responses collected as part of The Trevor Project’s annual survey on mental health. The nonprofit recruited students through targeted social media ads.  

Whether a college was considered accepting of LGBTQ students was associated with the availability of services for them. Almost half of the students who lacked access to LGBTQ-specific services said their colleges were unaccepting of LGBTQ people.

Specialized support for LGBTQ students is critical.

Last year, 33% of college students who identified as as LGBTQ seriously considered suicide, according to the report. Among the LGBTQ population, rates of suicidal thoughts were highest among nonbinary students, at 39%, and students of color, at 35%. That’s compared to 26% of LGBTQ cisgender students and 31% of LGBTQ White students.

“While college environments offer a number of positive and protective factors for LGBTQ students, the reality is that suicide risk still very much persists, especially among those who do not have access to affirming spaces and services,” Jonah DeChants, research scientist at The Trevor Project, said in a statement.

Even though many students can access specialized campus support, a third said they didn’t feel comfortable going. Long waitlists kept 29% of students from using campus resources, with 17% saying the same about privacy concerns.

To address this risk, colleges should provide comprehensive healthcare options, both physical and mental, for LGBTQ students and use gender-affirming language, according to the report. 

If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 988.

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