RALEIGH, N.C. — What almost was not funded in the 2017-2018 North Carolina state budget, was saved when lawmakers passed HB986, which directs the Department of Public Instruction (DPI) to develop a mental health training for school personnel that includes suicide prevention. As DPI implements this legislation, critical to its relative success is the understanding that some youth populations are at a much higher risk of suicide than others, Equality North Carolina (ENC)’s Director of Transgender Policy Ames Simmons shared with listserv subscribers to NC Child.

“A new report from the University of Connecticut and the Human Rights Campaign Foundation reveals some of the factors behind the elevated suicide rate among LGBTQ youth. The report contains results of a 2017 online survey of over 12,000 LGBTQ youth across the U.S. — one of the largest surveys of this population ever conducted,” Simmons added.

Of note in the study was that 11 percent of LGBTQ youth reported being sexually assaulted or raped because of their actual or perceived gender identity. Additionally, 43 percent of LGBTQ youth reported being bullied on school property in the last 12 months.

Overwhelming stress accounts for elevated levels of anxiety and depression among LGBTQ youth, where the highest levels were shown to be among non-binary and gender non-conforming youth. The report stated that 95 percent all respondents reported difficulty with sleeping at night. Only one in five LGBTQ youth of color reported that they believe their racial or ethnic group is regarded positively across the U.S. Coupled with these statistics is that the suicide problem has grown in all age groups, Ames said. When HB2 passed, transgender students had restricted access to bathroom facilities that led to calls being doubled to the Trans Lifeline.

ENC has called on state legislators to repeal HB142 (the legislation that replaced HB2, which restricts North Carolina cities from protecting transgender youth access to appropriate facilities) so that transgender youth can find protections from bullying, discrimination, etc., that can lead to suicide and depression. A more systemic approach is thought to be best in understanding and addressing LGBTQ youth suicide. Also, “LGBTQ youth are more likely to experience homelessness, foster care, and the juvenile justice system than their peers,” Ames stated.

ENC is in the development stages of creating a youth fellowship program “designed to lift up LGBTQ youth across our state, especially young people in rural areas.”

info: equalitync.org. ncchild.org. hrc.im/YouthReport.

Lainey Millen

Lainey Millen was formerly QNotes' associate editor, special assignments writer, N.C. and U.S./World News Notes columnist and production director from 2001-2019 when she retired.