- College freshmen who self-identify as LGBTQ are among the most likely to have suicidal thoughts and to transition from thoughts to plans, according to a new study conducted by the World Health Organization's International College Student Project. The survey, which solicited responses from more than 13,900 college students at public and private institutions throughout eight countries including the United States, determined that classification or feelings of being a sexual minority, being a non-Christian, being a woman, or having a deceased parent were all considerable risk factors.
- According to NBC News, the prevalence of suicidal thoughts among surveyed students ranged from 15% to almost 45%. More than half of the total number of participants were 19 years old or younger, with 32% reporting suicidal thoughts, and 75% percent of those respondents indicated having first had suicidal thoughts by 16 years old.
- Some officials say students must be taught coping skills to help them deal with negative thoughts. “Some people worry that this data may stigmatize sexual minorities,” said Jacqueline Pistorello, a clinical psychologist and researcher at the University of Nevada, Reno’s counseling services, who wasn’t involved in the study. “Suicidality has multiple pathways. We need to focus on what are the skills we need to give these kids to keep them alive,” she said told NBC News.
Stress and student comfort are growing topics on campus, particularly as colleges and universities are pressed to find solutions on how to make students feel more welcomed when they can feel ostracized because of their race, sexuality, class or other cultural identifiers. Beyond the cultural nuances, campuses also have to contend with the social and logistical realities presented by this survey.
How do campuses design intervention and counseling programs for such a broad cross-section of student types, which can similarly impact mental health for a diverse set of reasons? Race, sexuality and even being a long distance from home are common areas where counselors are trained to market programs for students impacted by these factors.
One takeaway is the need to reform the way peer counseling groups are presented. Just as leaders must take care to provide a welcoming and inclusive environment for students of any minority group — whether women in certain fields or students of color in any discipline — the same efforts must be extended for students who self-identify as LGBTQ.