States can help reduce suicide risk by passing laws that protect the mental health, safety and well-being of all young people. The Trevor Project keeps a close eye on certain types of state legislation – like anti-bullying bills, laws that affect youth access to mental health care, and nondiscrimination bills – that can positively or negatively impact LGBTQ youth.
When a young person in crisis knows about even one safe person to turn to for help, it can be life-saving. Educators can play a crucial role in recognizing the warning signs of suicide to become that safe resource. By requiring annual suicide prevention training, we can empower educators with the tools they need to intervene in safe ways to protect LGBTQ youth in crisis.
For governments to get anything done, you need to have lots of data to back up the changes you want them to make. In Trevor’s case, this means helping make sure we know as much as possible about the health and behaviors of LGBTQ youth so we can help policymakers create a safer environment nationwide.
Knowing a lot about LGBTQ youth isn’t easy for several reasons. Not all LGBTQ youth are out, or feel safe reporting about their sexual orientation or gender identity in a survey. Most importantly, until recently no one even asked young people about their sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, and without specific data on LGBTQ youth, they can seem virtually invisible to policymakers.
One important way The Trevor Project is improving data collection about LGBTQ youth is through the Youth Health Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), a federal survey administered by the CDC. The Trevor Project and other national partners formed the All Students Count Coalition, which advocates for more states and cities to add questions to their YRBS that can identify LGBTQ students. By adding these questions, states and cities will be able to look at how LGBTQ youth are at risk in areas like drug use, violence, sexual behavior, and suicide risk. In addition to these states, a number of large cities also ask one or more of these questions, including: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York City, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.
This map shows states that ask questions about sexual orientation or gender expression on their YRBS. In addition to these states, a number of large cities also ask one or more of these questions, including: Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, Detroit, Houston, Los Angeles, Milwaukee, New York City, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington, DC.
The Trevor Project believes that access to life-saving mental health care is a critical part of preventing suicide. We support the elimination of laws that restrict or reduce this vital access to care for LGBTQ youth.
Did you know that several states limit access to mental health care for young people? Certain laws prevent youth under a specific age from getting care unless they have parental permission. Others eliminate the promise of “doctor-patient confidentiality” for young people seeking mental health help, and conversations with a counselor or therapist can be shared with others in certain states.
These kinds of barriers to helping youth get the care they need can be especially big problems for LGBTQ youth, who often deal with sensitive issues like coming out, sexuality and gender, relationships with their families and friends, rejection, or violence and abuse. In some cases, these kinds of laws can even put LGBTQ youth in danger.
As much as we hope that states work to protect youth, unfortunately, several states have put laws in place that put LGBTQ youth at risk. The Trevor Project works to eliminate laws that stigmatize or isolate LGBTQ youth.
Laws and policies that do not allow educators to discuss LGBTQ people, issues or history, and those which require discussion of LGBTQ issues in negative ways are collectively known as “No promo homo” or “Don’t say gay” laws. Not only are these laws used to keep supportive teachers from speaking out in the classroom, they can also restrict or even eliminate vital safe spaces and affirming resources for LGBTQ youth, including activities, clubs, and discussions that support LGBTQ students.
Compared to states without “No Promo Laws”, LGBTQ students in states with these discriminatory laws were*: