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Report: Indiana Teens Struggle with Depression, Suicide

Gender-diverse teenagers say the depression they feel is often prompted by rejection by family members and bullying at school. (K. Paul)
Gender-diverse teenagers say the depression they feel is often prompted by rejection by family members and bullying at school. (K. Paul)
March 1, 2017

INDIANAPOLIS – A report released this week on kids' health and well-being in Indiana shows the suicide rate remains high, and advocates for teens say the problem is especially pervasive for those who identify as LBGT. The new Kids Count Data Book lists suicide as the second-leading cause of death for Hoosiers ages 15 to 24, both in 2014 and 2015.

A survey ranks Indiana third among more than 30 states for high-schoolers who have considered suicide, second for those who made a plan to take their own life, and 10th for students who actually attempt suicide.

Julie Walsh, who heads the nonprofit group Gender Nexus, says for LGBT students, the risk is severe.

"Forty-one percent of transgender adults have attempted suicide; that's nine times the national average," she said. "One-third of those folks indicated that they have attempted suicide before the age of 13, and three-quarters of those have attempted before the age of 18."

Walsh says the young people cite rejection by their families, and harassment and bullying at school, as the main reasons for depression that leads to their suicide attempts. The report also found child abuse and neglect has risen every year since 2011 in Indiana.

Walsh points out that LGBT youth struggle on a daily basis to conform their bodies and personal appearance with their authentic gender. She says more education and acceptance in schools is needed so these students can feel that they belong.

"In school environments, there is too great a percentage of faculty and staff who don't understand gender-diverse youth, and will subsequently use terms that are offensive," she explained.

The report says one in five Indiana kids lives in poverty. On a positive note, the survey found the number of homeless students had decreased for the first time since 2006, more teens are enrolled in school or are working, and more full-time college students are earning their degrees on time.

Veronica Carter/Eric Galatas, Public News Service - IN