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Pitt Study Finds Large Number Of Transgender Teens Have Suicidal Thoughts

Katie Blackley
90.5 WESA
A sign from a rally for the protection of transgender rights in downtown Pittsburgh on Thursday, Nov. 1, 2018.

Suicidal thoughts are a common occurrence among transgender teens, according to a new study from the University of Pittsburgh. About 85 percent of the 1,134 transgender adolescents surveyed said they’d experienced serious suicidal thoughts.

The mental health of transgender teens is rarely studied, said Brian Thoma, assistant professor of psychiatry at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, but is critical to helping find solutions for the at-risk demographic.

“Once we’ve started to identify some of the things we know are perpetuating these disparities among transgender adolescents, we can use that information to develop and implement intervention and prevention strategies,” Thoma said.

Through targeted online ads, the researchers identified 2,020 teenagers ages 14-18 years old. The participants were asked their gender assigned at birth and the gender with which they currently identify. The individuals were then grouped into categories, including cisgender (gender assigned at birth aligns with gender identity), non-binary and transgender.

More than half of the 1,134 transgender respondents reported having attempted suicide, Thoma said. Participants who “endorsed suicidality were provided mental health resources, including 24-hour suicide hotlines.”

The teen group highest at risk included transgender males and transgender females. Thoma said this is likely a result of those adolescents experiencing stressors including bullying and family rejection.

“I think it’s really critical that the next steps in the literature examining mental health among transgender adolescents will be to start to examine how some of those stressors and protective factors are associated with mental health outcomes over time,” Thoma said.

WESA receives funding from the University of Pittsburgh.