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LGBTQ young people four times more likely to self harm than straight peers

A new study highlights more concerning aspects of LGBTQ mental health and wellbeing

In concerning stats, young people in sexual minorities are four times more likely to attempt to commit suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. They are also four times more likely to have reported self-harming in the previous year, in new findings that come from an observational study by scientists from University College London.

5,000 young people were involved in the study over 11 years. All were born between April 1, 1991, and December 31, 1992 – noting their sexual orientation aged 16. They were required to report on depressive symptoms at seven points between the ages of ten and 21 through a questionnaire. At the age of 16 and again at 21, they also filled out a questionnaire on self-harm.

Researchers found that symptoms of depression were far more likely at the age of ten in those from sexual minorities. These mental health issues were then likely to get worse throughout their adolescence and continue in their adult years. Symptoms of depression decreased around the age of 18, with the scientists pointing to greater independence and making new friends.

Dr Glyn Lewis, professor of epidemiological psychiatry at UCL told the Independent: “The lack of sexual-minority role models and unquestioning acceptance of rigid concepts of gendered behaviour should be challenged in schools and society at large.” Lewis adds that “We also need to ensure that doctors and those working in mental health are aware of this inequality and recognise the needs of sexual minorities.”

While these findings are hardly surprising and evidence has formerly shown that young members of the LGBTQ+ community are more likely than their heterosexual peers to self-harm or experience depression, this research is different in showing when these mental health issues occur and how they develop.   

Recently, LGBT in Britain: Health Report – conducted by Stonewall and YouGov – highlighted that half of LGBT people (52 per cent) have experienced depression in the last year, and three in five (61 per cent) had anxiety. 

Amid a revolution in attitudes towards gender, sexuality, and its fluidity, these findings are a poignant reminder of how far we have to go to ensure everyone – however they identify – is accepted.