Transgender and non-binary teens are at much greater risk than their cisgender peers of having suicidal thoughts or attempting suicide, warns a new study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
The study, conducted by researchers at the University of Ottawa and released on Monday, indicates that more than half of transgender teens said they had seriously considered suicide in the 12 months preceding the survey.
A total of 14% of teens said they had had suicidal thoughts in the past year, while 6.8% said they had attempted suicide. Transgender youth were five times more likely to have thought about suicide and 7.6 times more likely to have attempted suicide than cisgender youth – people whose gender identity matches their sex at birth.
“It’s very concerning,” said Dr. Ian Colman, the study’s author, based in the School of Epidemiology and Public Health at the University of Ottawa’s Faculty of Medicine. “Even though the stigma is diminishing, even though we are seeing social progress in this area, it seems that our teenagers continue to struggle.”
The data studied by Colman and his colleagues come from the Canadian Child and Youth Health Survey published by Statistics Canada in 2019. Their sample consisted of 6,800 adolescents aged 15 to 17, the vast majority of whom (99 .4%) identified as cisgender and 0.6% as transgender.
The majority (78.6%) of survey participants identified as heterosexual, 14.7% said they were attracted to more than one gender, and 4.3% were unsure of their attraction. The survey indicated that 1.6% of respondents were young women who said they were attracted to the same sex, while 0.8% of respondents were boys who said they were attracted to boys.
“One in five teens is a sexual or gender minority,” Colman said, adding that survey results indicate that mental health issues are no small issue.
“When you consider that more than half of young transgender people have recently considered ending their lives, it means that even if we are aware of the problem and even if we try to help them, it is not enough, and we need to do more to try to provide safe spaces for these young people because they are going through a difficult time for everyone,” he said.
Adolescence can be a turbulent time, especially for young transgender people, and even those who can count on the support of those around them will not be entirely immune to the turmoil, Colman said. It’s even harder, he said, for young people who don’t have such support and who have to weather the storm on their own.
Researchers say that the association between contemplating or attempting suicide and being a sexual or gender minority is partly explained by the bullying or cyberbullying that these young people experience.
The findings of the Ontario study are consistent with those of a Quebec survey, the results of which were released earlier this year and found that young people who reported having an “other gender identity” were up to three times more likely than their peers to show worrying signs. signs of mental health problems.
These young people, for example, were much more likely than others to perceive their mental health as “fair” or “poor”; experiencing moderate to severe symptoms of anxiety or depression; or of having recently considered that it was better for their life to end.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death in Canada among adolescents and young adults aged 15 to 24.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 6, 2022.
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