Lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and/or intersex (LGBTI) people are identified as a priority population for suicide prevention in Australia.
LGBTI people make up a significant part of Australian society, representing around 11% of the population. In Australia, LGBTI are five distinct but sometimes overlapping groupings, referring collectively to people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and/or intersex.
Although most LGBTI people live healthy and happy lives, research has demonstrated that a disproportionate number have a higher risk of suicidal behaviours than their peers. Evidence demonstrates that the elevated risk of suicidality among LGBTI people and communities is not related to sexuality, gender identity or intersex characteristics in and of themselves, but are due to the psychological distress that can occur as a result of experiences of discrimination, prejudice, abuse and exclusion in relation to their LGBTI identity, experience or history.
What we know about suicide among LGBTI people
Compared to the general population, LGBTI people are more likely to attempt suicide, have thoughts of suicide, or have engaged in self harm, in their lifetime. For example, LGBTI young people aged 16 to 27 are five times more likely to attempt suicide in their lifetime, with 16% reporting that they had attempted suicide. 1
While research in Australia and internationally provides evidence that demonstrates significant concern regarding mental health outcomes and suicidal behaviours among LGBTI people, it is vital to note that significant knowledge gaps still remain. This is due to lack of inclusion of sexual orientation, gender, identity and intersex status in population research and data collection in mental health services.
For further information, please refer to the 2016 Snapshot of mental health and suicide prevention statistics for LGBTI people and communities.
The causes of suicide are complex and multifaceted. It is important to acknowledge that a LGBTI person may never experience suicidal behaviours or thoughts. The presence of protective factors may reduce the risk of suicide.
Protective factors that can reduce the likelihood of suicidal behaviour, and the negative impact of discrimination include:
- a sense of belonging
- supportive social networks
- supportive relationships.
Factors that may increase risk of suicidal behaviour include:
- psychological distress (including fear) as a result of experiences of stigma, discrimination, prejudice, abuse, violence, isolation and exclusion in relation to their LGBTI identity, experience or history
- stressful life events
- unemployment or underemployment
- insecure housing
- chronic illness
- alcohol and substance use
- past experiences of trauma or abuse
- co-morbidity of many of these factors.
For further information, please visit the risk and protective factors page.
The diversity of LGBTI people
It is important that the diversity of LGBTI people and communities be acknowledged. There is no single LGBTI community; there are many LGBTI communities and each group within ‘LGBTI’ has distinct needs. Consideration should also be given to other identity-driven needs and roles an LGBTI person may have, which may overlap with other communities including:
Morris, S. (2016). Snapshot of mental health and suicide prevention statistics for LGBTI people and communities. Sydney: National LGBTI Health Alliance.