Australian-first Suicide Prevention Guidelines for LGBTQA+ Young People

Posted 16th May 2023 in Sector news

A new set of Australian guidelines outlining best practices for suicide prevention in LGBTQA+ young people aim to help clinical and community service providers improve care for LGBTAQ+ young people who experience suicidal behaviours.

The guidelines Suicide prevention in LGBTQA+ young people: Best practice guidelines for clinical and community service providers were developed in collaboration between researchers from Telethon Kids Institute, The University of Western Australia, The Gender Diversity Service at Perth Children’s Hospital, Orygen, and the University of Melbourne.

Two guideline authors, Dr Penelope Strauss and Dr Yael Perry, explained that young people of diverse gender and/or sexuality (LGBTQA+) experience higher rates of suicidal thoughts and behaviours than the general population. More than a quarter of LGBTQA+ young people have attempted suicide in their lifetime, almost five times the rate reported in the general population.

This population also experiences barriers to receiving help, as services are often not affirming environments for LGBTQA+ young people, nor do the staff always have the skills or confidence to support LGBTQA+ people. Thus, they felt it was imperative to develop a resource for service providers that is easy to access, understand, and implement to help reduce suicidal thoughts and behaviours in LGBTQA+ young people. To meet this need, Dr Strauss, Dr Perry and other researchers developed and launched best practice guidelines for preventing suicide and reducing suicidal thoughts and behaviours in LGBTQA+ young people in clinical and community service settings.

Dr Strauss and Dr Perry emphasise that these guidelines are the first in Australia. They explain the guidelines were developed alongside LGBTQA+ young people and professionals with expertise in LGBTQA+ mental health and suicide prevention, using the Delphi consensus method whereby lived experience, research evidence and clinical practice are valued and reflected in the resulting guidelines. A total of 115 people participated in the Delphi process; 52 professionals and 63 LGBTQA+ young people completed round one, where they were provided with a series of practical and clinical recommendations and asked to endorse those that were the most important for LGBTQA+ youth suicide prevention. Approximately 80% of participants were retained in round 2 of the Delphi survey, where additional recommendations were provided and rated. A total of 290 items were included in the guidelines and grouped into:

  1. General principles for creating an affirming and inclusive environment for LGBTQA+ young people (e.g. “Use the same label/language used by the young person when they refer to their sexuality”).
  2. Assessing suicide risk and working with suicidal LGBTQA+ young people (i.e. additional risk and protective factors relevant to LGBTQA+ young people that should be included in psychosocial assessments).
  3. Considerations for specific LGBTQA+ populations (Aboriginal and/or Torres Strait Islander LGBTQA+ young people, trans young people, and neurodiverse LGBTQA+ young people).
  4. Advocating for LGBTQA+ young people (e.g., “Request that training in LGBTQA+ inclusivity is made available to all employees, volunteers, and/or students at the service”).

The authors hope that these guidelines will provide practical support to service providers, regardless of prior training in LGBTQA+ identities or mental health or experience in working with LGBTQA+ young people, and encourage service providers to download the guidelines and implementation guide, request a hard copy of the guidelines, or view the launch webinar (including Auslan interpretation).

Life in Mind
acknowledges the contributions of Dr Penelope Strauss and Dr Yael Perry to developing this news item.

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