Youth suicide in NJ — LGBTQ youth at much greater risk, stats show
The suicide statistics are dark enough when you take a look at New Jersey's youth overall — 291 lives lost between 2016 and 2018 — but a deeper dive into the numbers reveals that the threat of suicide is even greater among youth who are gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, LGBTQ youth seriously contemplate suicide at almost three times the rate of heterosexual youth, and they're almost five times as likely to have attempted suicide. The Trevor Project, a national nonprofit focused on suicide prevention among the LGBTQ population, estimates that at least one LGBTQ youth attempts suicide every 45 seconds in the United States.
This is part 2 of a four-part series about youth suicide in the Garden State. Join Eric Scott on-air and online at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 30 for a live conversation with New Jersey advocates and medical professionals about this growing problem.
"They hear negative comments from their families, they hear it from school, they hear it from the community, they hear it from society," William Placek (he/him), president of PFLAG Jersey Shore, told New Jersey 101.5.
One's gender identity or sexual orientation, Placek noted, is at the core of one's self — and if it can't be accepted by one's peers or in one's own home, "children can reach the point where they just feel like there's no way out."
Placek admits he had frequent thoughts of suicide as a gay youth — the son of a baptist pastor, Placek struggled with his faith because he "was told I was going to hell for who I was."
"There was no way that I could view that I was going to live a happy and successful life, because everything around me told me I was wrong," he said. "It is critical that children receive love and acceptance from their family when it relates to their LGBTQ+ status."
Acceptance among youth of the LGBTQ population is greater than ever these days, Placek added. But, he said, acceptance is not universal.
Physical or verbal harassment of LGBTQ youth more than doubles the likelihood of self-harming behavior, according to a study in the American Journal of Public Health.
"It's devastating to think of the resiliency needed by these youth in order to survive in this world," said Christian Fuscarino (he/him), executive director of Garden State Equality.
All through their young lives, Fuscarino said, LGBTQ youth may be coming across individuals who are homophobic, transphobic, or biased against them.
New Jersey in 2019 became the second state in the nation to pass a law requiring public schools to incorporate an LGBTQ-inclusive curriculum in their classrooms. The law was rolled out as a pilot program within a dozen schools in the Garden State.
"We should be doing everything we can to create a safe and affirming environment for these youth to learn," Fuscarino said.
Part 3 of this series will examine schools' efforts to prevent suicide among youth.
- New Jersey Suicide Prevention Hopeline: 1-855-654-6735
- Crisis Textline: Text NJ to 741741
- National Suicide Prevention Helpline: 1-800-273-TALK
- 2ndFloor Youth Helpline: 1-888-222-2228
The Trevor Project can connect individuals to a crisis counselor 24/7 — there are phone, chat, and text options available.
If your life or someone else's is in imminent danger, call 911.
Contact reporter Dino Flammia at email@example.com.