Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Consensus Conference Addresses Suicide Risk among LGBT Populations

In November 2007, AFSP organized a conference cosponsored by the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association and the Suicide Prevention Resource Center that brought together leading experts in areas related to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender suicide.
for the
conference agenda

The two-day “Consensus Conference on LGBT Suicide: Research, Treatment and Prevention," took place in Chicago on Nov. 8-9, and looked to assess the current state of knowledge and develop a consensus statement with recommendations to guide future research, treatment, education and suicide prevention interventions related to LGBT populations.

Over the last two decades, research findings have pointed to disproportionately high rates of suicidal behavior among LGBT adolescents and young adults. Suicide attempts in this population have been linked to a variety of factors including gender nonconformity, lack of support, family problems, violence/ victimization, early sexual debut and mental health problems, notably depression and substance abuse or dependency. How these factors converge to produce suicidal behavior among different groups of sexual minority youth, however, remains only partially understood.

While some research suggests that LGBT adults are not at substantially higher risk for suicidal ideation or attempts compared to comparably aged heterosexuals, other recent population-based studies have found higher lifetime rates of suicide attempts among homosexual men, in particular, that could not be explained solely on the basis of higher psychiatric morbidity. Few studies have looked at LGBT older adults, although many in this group share characteristics that make the elderly overall particularly vulnerable to suicide risk, such as chronic illness. LGBT elders may have additional risk factors related to sexual orientation or gender identity.

Because official suicide statistics do not include information on sexual orientation or gender identity, firm data are lacking on whether rates of completed suicide are higher among LGBT youth, adults or older adults, compared to the general population. Lacking clear data on the prevalence of suicide among these individuals, and clear understanding of the underlying causes, few suicide prevention programs have focused specifically on this population.

This LGBT conference was designed to address these gaps. AFSP anticipates that this conference will be the first step of a long-term initiative to address LGBT suicide, similar to initiatives the Foundation has undertaken to address suicide in other understudied populations. Post-conference goals include stimulating needed research on LGBT depression and suicide, increasing public and professional understanding in these areas and guiding the development of empirically-grounded suicide prevention interventions for LGBT individuals across the lifespan.

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