Study aims to reduce self harm and suicide among LGBT young people

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Lancaster University is leading a £300,000 Department of Health-funded study which aims to reduce the rates of suicide and self-harm in LGBT young people.

According to research, LGBT teens and young adults can be up to four to seven times more likely to self-harm or contemplate suicide compared to their straight peers. LGBT young people are also more likely to experience homelessness, drug or alcohol problems.

The two-year ‘Queer Futures’ project is funded by the Department of Health, and is led by Dr Elizabeth McDermott and Dr Victoria Rawlings, both of the University of Lancaster. They are joined by Dr Liz Hughes of the University of York.

The study “aims to provide health professionals and services with information about how to help LGBTQ people aged 16-25 who are feeling distressed.

“LGBTQ young people can feel marginalised in a variety of settings such as school, work, sporting environments, religious institutions or social groups because of discrimination against their gender identity or sexuality. They may also experience rejection from their families. These experiences may put them at increased risk of self-harm and suicide.”

Dr McDermott said: “It is only very recently that the UK Suicide Prevention Strategy has recognised that LGBTQ people have a higher risk of suicide and self-harm. We are very pleased that the Department of Health are funding the research which will provide the evidence, which is currently missing, to tackle the problem at a national level.”

Dr Rawlings said: “Our research aims to understand the factors that cause distress for some young LGBTQ people by listening to their opinions and experiences. This will help to explain why some young LGBTQ people in England take risks with their personal safety, harm themselves or think about suicide. We hope our findings will identify what types of services and support can help young LGBTQ people in distress.”

The project is currently seeking out participants. Those interested can follow @QueerFutures on Facebook.