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For LGBTQIA Youth, Support Can Be 'Literally Life-Saving'

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Monday, February 20, 2023   

Teen suicide is the second-leading cause of death in the 15-24 age group in this country, and young people who identify as LGBTQIA are at greater risk than their non-LGBTQIA peers.

In a 2022 state-by-state survey of LGBTQIA youth, 50% of the Nebraska respondents said they had seriously considered suicide over the past year, with an even higher percentage from those identifying as trans or nonbinary.

Dr. Alison DeLizza, clinical psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, said the fact three-fourths of Nebraska LGBTQIA youth reported anxiety and more than half reported depression is not surprising.

However, she said the risk of mental-health issues for LGBTQIA youths is not related to their identity.

"The true risk factor actually is not being supported," DeLizza pointed out. "It's being marginalized, it's being othered. When they walk into a room, they literally don't know it that's actually a safe place for them."

DeLizza noted research has shown having one important adult who supports them can reduce the risk of suicide for an LGBTQIA youth by 50%.

DeLizza stressed nothing in her "toolkit" as a mental health professional is as effective for LGBTQIA youths as having such support.

"I tell parents out there, this is literally lifesaving," DeLizza emphasized. "It is literally lifesaving to find a way to support and affirm your child as they go through the coming-out process."

She added even parents who do not understand or fully accept their young person's decision can still convey support.

"The overall feeling that they get from their parents is, 'I see you, I love you, I accept you. I'm going to get this wrong, but I'm trying to get it right,' " DeLizza advised.

And DeLizza wanted parents to know feelings of loss, confusion and fear upon learning of their child's LGBTQIA identity are completely understandable.

"Seek out someone to work through it with, so that this way you can provide to your child the support that they need because they are going to face more hurdles than other children do," DeLizza suggested.

For parents or youths seeking help, DeLizza recommended their pediatrician or family doctor. For information, OutNebraska, or national support groups online, many of which have local chapters. The national Suicide and Crisis Lifeline number is 988.


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