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Report: Indigenous LGBTQ Youth Face Significantly Higher Suicide Risk, Structural Inequities, LGBTQ Change Attempts

BY: Nicholas Turton
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Indigenous LGBTQ young people had 66% higher odds of attempting suicide in the past year compared to their non-Indigenous peers

November 30, 2023 — A new report released today by The Trevor Project, the leading suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ young people, explores the mental health and well-being of Indigenous LGBTQ youth. The report’s findings contribute greatly to a better understanding of the unique experiences and challenges of young people who are both Indigenous and LGBTQ. 

Key findings include:

  • Indigenous LGBTQ young people had 66% higher odds of a past-year suicide attempt compared to their non-Indigenous peers (aOR=1.66, 95% CI [1.44, 1.90], p<0.001), illustrating this group of young people faces a number of unique challenges significantly impacting their mental health and well-being.
  • Over half of Indigenous LGBTQ young people (54%) reported seriously considering suicide in the past year. Nearly a quarter (23%) reported a past-year suicide attempt.
  • Transgender and nonbinary Indigenous young people reported higher rates of suicide risk compared to their LGBQ peers, with 58% seriously considering suicide and more than a quarter (27%) reporting a past-year suicide attempt.
  • 70% of Indigenous LGBTQ young people reported experiencing a “change attempt” to alter their LGBTQ identity, which was associated with a nearly two and a half times higher odds of a past-year suicide attempt.
  • Indigenous LGBTQ young people experience disproportionate structural inequities compared to their non-Indigenous peers, with nearly half (48%) experiencing food insecurity, over one-third (34%) reporting experiences with homelessness, and over one in ten (12%) having ever been in foster care.
  • Access to an LGBTQ-affirming home was a key protective factor for Indigenous LGBTQ young people, which was associated with 30% lower odds of a past-year suicide attempt. 38% of Indigenous LGBTQ young people indicated having an LGBTQ-affirming home, with transgender and nonbinary reporting significantly lower rates than their cisgender peers.

“Our latest report captures the unique experiences and mental health outcomes of Indigenous LGBTQ young people, which are consistent with existing findings that document higher rates of mental health challenges, suicide risk, and structural inequities among this population when compared to their non-Indigenous peers,” said Dr. Ronita Nath (she/her), Vice President of Research at The Trevor Project. “The enduring impact of historical legacies of trauma paired with contemporary under-investment in tribal communities undoubtedly play a role in the equation here, highlighting the urgent and critical need for systemic change and investment in culturally-grounded resources for these young people. Indigenous LGBTQ young people deserve mental health care that affirms and respects all aspects of their identities and lived experiences: their LGBTQ identities, their age, and their tribal cultures and traditions.”

The report illustrates the diverse range of identities held by Indigenous LGBTQ young people. Just over a quarter (28%) of Indigenous LGBTQ young people identify as Two-Spirit, a term used in many tribal communities to describe those who embody diverse sexualities, genders, gender expressions, and/or gender roles in their community. Additionally, two-thirds (66%) of Indigenous LGBTQ young people self-identified as transgender or nonbinary. Among respondents who provided their tribal affiliation(s), the most commonly cited tribal affiliations were Cherokee (12%), Choctaw (2%), Navajo (2%), and Ojibwe (1%).

These data also underscore the unique forms of victimization faced by Indigenous LGBTQ youth that may place them at increased risk for suicide. Nearly a quarter of Indigenous LGBTQ young people (23%) reported being either subjected to or threatened with conversion therapy — which was associated with more than double the rate of a past-year suicide attempt compared to those who had neither been subjected or threatened with it (40% vs 18%). Almost two-thirds of Indigenous LGBTQ young people (63%) reported experiencing discrimination due to their sexual orientation in the past year — which was higher than that of the overall sample of LGBTQ youth (55%). Those who experienced anti-LGBTQ discrimination in the past year had more than twice the odds of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who did not.

The report findings illustrate some protective factors for Indigenous LGBTQ youth, which can play a role in uplifting their well-being and preventing suicide. Indigenous LGBTQ young people who reported high levels of general support from their families reported past-year suicide attempts at nearly half the rate compared to those who had low to moderate levels of family support (13% vs. 24%). However, Indigenous LGBTQ young people did report lower rates of family support compared to the overall sample of LGBTQ youth (19% vs 25%). For Indigenous transgender and nonbinary young people, pronoun respect was associated with lower suicide risk. Indigenous transgender and nonbinary young people who reported full pronoun respect, or that all of the people who live with them respect their pronouns, reported a past-year suicide attempt at nearly half the rate compared to those who reported no pronoun respect from the people who live with them (17% vs 33%). 

This report was created using data from a national sample of nearly 2,000 Indigenous LGBTQ young people ages 13–24 who participated in The Trevor Project’s 2023 U.S. National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People.

The full report can be found here.

If you or someone you know needs help or support, The Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at TheTrevorProject.org/Get-Help, or by texting START to 678678. 

Methodology

The content and methodology for The Trevor Project’s 2023 U.S. National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People were approved by an independent Institutional Review Board (IRB). This quantitative cross-sectional design was used to collect data through an online survey platform between September 1 and December 12, 2022, among an analytic sample of 28,524 LGBTQ young people ages 13 to 24 who resided in the United States, including 1,792 LGBTQ young people who either identified as exclusively American Indian/Alaskan Native or who identified as multiracial American Indian/Alaskan Native, henceforth just referred to as Indigenous unless otherwise specified. Young people who indicated a Indigenous identity were asked to provide the name of their nation/tribe and whether they are Two-Spirit (Canadian Institutes for Health Research Institute of Gender and Health, 2020). Visit here for additional information on methodology.

Media Inquiries:Nicholas Turton
[email protected]

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