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Acceptance by peers reduced risk of suicide attempts among API LGBTQ youth, report finds

Asian Pacific Islander LGBTQ youth reported lower rates of depression and attempted suicide than non-API LGBTQ youth.
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The risk of attempting suicide among Asian Pacific Islander LGBTQ youth dropped by more than 50 percent as a result of widespread acceptance among their friends, according to a new report.

The research, released Wednesday by the Trevor Project, an LGBTQ crisis intervention and suicide prevention organization, also found that these youth reported lower rates of depressed mood and attempted suicide than non-API LGBTQ youth. The group was also found to be less likely to share their sexual orientation and gender identity with their parents than non-API LGBTQ youth, but reported similar rates as non-API youth of sharing with friends.

“We know that coming out is a personal choice and a lifelong process, that individuals get to choose who and what context they come out to,” Amy Green, director of research at The Trevor Project, said. “The conclusion that really sounds strong there is for those who are friends and others in positions to support Asian American Pacific Islander youth can know how valuable and important that authentic acceptance is.”

The report's findings are based on responses from a 2018 survey of LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 24. Of a sample size of about 25,900, 785 identified as exclusively Asian Pacific Islander.

While API LGBTQ youth reported lower rates of depression and suicidality compared to non-API LGBTQ youth, their rates were still higher than straight/cisgender youth, according to the report. It also found that API transgender and/or nonbinary youth were three times more likely to attempt suicide than cisgender API LGBTQ youth.

“We’re hoping that when folks look at this data they see it as, there are factors that are influencing LGBTQ youth rates of depression and suicide,” Green said. “And they’re generally things like discrimination, victimization, rejection.”

Hieu Nguyen, founder and chair of Viet Rainbow of Orange County, a nonprofit dedicated to the advancement of equitable treatment of LGBTQ individuals in the U.S., commended The Trevor Project for putting together the report.

“I think it’s a great first step in terms of research and in terms of truly understanding the API LGBTQ youth community,” he said.

He said he hopes to see more research done on the community that reflects the differences within the larger API population, and examines cultural components that make it challenging for API LGBTQ youth to come out to their parents. Nguyen also noted that API respondents accounted for 3 percent of the total sample size of the survey and that the report analyzed findings in aggregate.

The aggregate analysis was one of the report's limitations, Green said.

“We know that there’s a lot of diversity within the Asian American and Pacific Islander community,” she said. “In next year’s survey, we hope to have a sample size that's much larger that we'll actually be able to look at some cultures within that larger group.”

Another limitation she noted was that respondents self-reported in the survey, which excludes API LGBTQ youth who may not have felt comfortable identifying as such and responding to the survey.

Green said The Trevor Project hopes the report will help API LGBTQ youth feel less alone by seeing their voices and experiences represented.

Another goal is to raise awareness among groups and individuals in a position to support these youth that API LGBTQ youth exist, and that providing acceptance and support makes a difference in their lives.

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