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New YRBS Data Emphasizes Severe Suicide Risk Disparities Faced By Queer Students Compared to Straight Peers

BY: Trevor News
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February 13, 2023 — The Trevor Project, the leading suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ young people, released the following statement in response to the Centers for Disease Control’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey Data Summary & Trends Report: 2011-2021.

Statement from Dr. Ronita Nath (she/her pronouns), Vice President of Research at The Trevor Project:

“These alarming data further emphasize why The Trevor Project exists and what we already knew to be true: queer students face disproportionate rates of victimization, and this directly contributes to their higher rates of poor mental health and suicide risk. Queer students are not inherently prone to these challenges because of their identities. 

“At a time when schools are increasingly being turned into political battlegrounds in the ‘Culture War,’ we must remember that real, young lives are at stake. Our schools must be safe places where all students can learn and find support, not a consistent source of bullying and discrimination. 

“Our governments and school officials must respond to this public health crisis with comprehensive suicide prevention strategies tailored to meet the unique needs of students who are LGBTQ and/or are people of color. What they should not be doing is censoring curriculums, banning inclusive books, and discouraging students from confiding in teachers and counselors about their identities.” 

Top Findings on Mental Health & Suicide Risk from 2021 Surveillance Data:

  • 45% of LGBQ+ students seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, compared to 15% of straight students
  • 22% of LGBQ+ students attempted suicide in the past year, compared to 6% of straight students
  • 37% of LGBQ+ students made a suicide plan in the past year, compared to 12% of straight students
  • Nearly 70% of LGBQ+ students experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness, compared to 35% of straight students
  • 52% of LGBQ+ students experienced poor mental health during the past 30 days, compared to 22% of straight students

Methodology

The YRBS report represents a nationally representative sample of more than 17,000 students in grades 9–12 attending public (including charter schools), Catholic, and other non-public schools in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Collected in fall 2021, these data also represent the first YRBS data collected since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. 

A Note on Sexual and Gender Identity: In this report, sexual identity has two categories, students who identify as heterosexual and students who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, questioning, or another non-heterosexual identity (LGBQ+). In the 2021 National Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), students were asked which of the following terms best describes them: “heterosexual (straight),” “gay or lesbian,” “bisexual,” “questioning” or “I describe my sexual identity in some other way.” These answer options were changed from the 2019 survey to provide more inclusive options for students to describe their sexual identity. However, this change also means that trend data for sexual identity are not provided in the 2021 report. Because the 2021 national YRBS did not have a question assessing gender identity, this report does not highlight data specifically on students who identify as transgender. Therefore, the T commonly used in the acronym LGBTQ+ is not included.

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