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The Fenway Institute offers testimony to Boston City Council on risks of suicide among LGBT people

In Massachusetts, lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth are almost three times as likely as heterosexual youth (61.1% vs. 23.9%) to report feeling sad or helpless almost every day for two or more weeks in a row that they stopped doing some usual activities. Among LGB adults ages 50-75 in the state, 32.9% have reported ever being diagnosed with depression, compared with 20.3% of heterosexual adults in the same age group.

Today, in a hearing called by Boston City Councilor-at-Large Annissa Essaibi-George, the Council’s Committee on Homelessness Mental Health and Recovery examined the mental health resources, de-escalation and treatment services for suicide prevention in the City of Boston. Sean Cahill, PhD, Director of Health Policy Research at The Fenway Institute, testified on the higher rates of suicide attempts and ideation among LGBT youth and adults as compared with their heterosexual peers.

Highlights of the testimony included:

  • Documentation of the risks LGBT youth face: “The Our Health Matters study surveyed 294 LGBTQ youth of color in the Greater Boston area in 2014. In that study, conducted by the Fenway Institute, BAGLY, and Boston GLASS, over 40% of respondents reported symptoms of depression and/or anxiety, and 18.1% had attempted suicide in the past 12 months.”

Factors that reduce risk:

  • For LGBT youth: “[F]amily acceptance, and school-based programming and policies, such as anti-harassment and anti-bullying laws with specific enumeration of sexual orientation and gender identity, Gay Straight Alliances, teacher and staff training, safe school programs, tolerance curricula—such as the excellent one that the Anti-Defamation League has created, and openly LGBT adult role models.”
  • For older LGBT people: “Ensuring that LGBT elders can access mainstream elder services and receive affirming, culturally competent elder services is important. One intervention that helps LGBT elders is congregate meal programs for LGBT elders and their friends. Massachusetts is a leader in this area, with more than 25 LGBT congregate meal programs across the Commonwealth.”

The full testimony can be read here.

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