Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, queer and other sexuality, gender and bodily diverse (LGBTIQ+) people are identified as a priority population for suicide prevention in Australia.
The umbrella term LGBTIQA+ is used to describe the shared experiences of marginalisation around sex, gender and sexuality. Though, people and groups within the LGBTIQA+ community have distinct histories, experiences and needs.
What does the evidence tell us about suicide for LGBTIQA+ people?
Although many LGBTIQA+ people live healthy and happy lives, research has demonstrated that a disproportionate number have a higher risk of suicidal behaviours compared to the general population.
LGBTIQA+ people are not at greater risk of suicide because of their sexuality, gender identity or intersex characteristics in and of themselves. Instead, these risks are due to psychological distress resulting from experiences of discrimination, prejudice, abuse and exclusion in relation to their identity or experiences.
There are currently no reliable national data on rates of suicide and self-harm among LGBTIQ+ communities in Australia.
The Private Lives 3 survey report details the experiences of 6,835 LGBTIQ+ people in Australia. Findings from the report include:
- Three-quarters (75%) of survey participants had experienced suicidal thoughts in their lifetimes.
- Around one third (30%) reported attempting suicide in their lifetimes.
- Younger age groups were more likely to report lifetime or recent experiences of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts compared to older age groups.
- Transgender and non-binary participants were more likely to have experienced recent and lifetime suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts compared to cisgender men and women.
- Almost nine in ten (87%) participants with an intersex variation/s reported experiencing suicidal thoughts in their lifetimes.
"LGBTIQ+ people demonstrate considerable resilience despite adversity, but our communities continue to experience concerning levels of discrimination, harassment and violence, compared to the general population."
Factors that may increase risk of suicide
Factors that contribute to worse outcomes for LGBTIQA+ people include:
- Individual discrimination
- Structural discrimination
- Intersecting discrimination, including racism
- Minority stress
- Intergenerational trauma
- Involuntary medical intervention
- Lack of gender affirmation
- Social isolation
- Sexual, domestic and family violence
- Clinical mental health conditions
- Lack of access to suitable and affordable services
- Homelessness, poverty, unemployment and disrupted education.
Factors that protect against risk of suicide
Factors that enable LGBTIQA+ people to flourish and promote wellbeing include:
- Healthy self-esteem and resilience
- A sense of purpose
- Feeling included and safe in one’s family and in all communities.
- Positive relationships
- Community connectedness
- Self-determination and human rights
- The right to practice culture and apply cultural protocols
- Gender affirmation and gender affirming health care.
What does this mean for policy and practice?
The Beyond Urgent: National LGBTIQ+ Mental Health and Suicide Prevention Strategy 2021-2026 was developed in response to the need for urgent action on mental health and suicide prevention for LGBTIQ+ communities.
The strategy includes four goals:
- Reduce the rates of psychological distress and suicidality (suicidal thoughts) among LGBTIQ+ communities.
- Increase access to safe and inclusive mental health care and support.
- Increase empowerment to lead to improved wellbeing for LGBTIQ+ Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Peoples.
- Reform data, research, funding and governance to deliver effective, community-led responses to LGBTIQ+ mental health and suicidality (suicidal thoughts).
Each goal is linked to strategic priorities and actions to improve outcomes for LGBTIQ+ people and communities.