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One-Third of LGBT Youth Have Attempted Suicide, Most Don’t Have Mental Health Problems

A new study has found that one-third of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth have attempted suicide in their lifetime. The study is the first to report the frequency of mental disorders in LGBT youth using the criteria of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM-IV).

Previous studies have used questionnaires and surveys, which could overestimate mental disorders in certain groups, according to the authors. Researchers at the University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC) conducted psychiatric interviews with 246 ethnically diverse LGBT youths between the ages of 16 and 20. They assessed major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicide attempts, and conduct disorder.

About one-third of the participants met criteria for at least one of the mental health disorders, meaning that 70 percent did not meet the criteria. Dr. Brian Mustanski, lead author of the study and assistant professor of psychiatry at UIC, said that one of the most important findings of this study is that most LGBT youth are doing well and are not experiencing mental health problems.

Almost 10 percent of the participants met criteria for post-traumatic stress disorder, and about 15 percent met criteria for major depression. One-third had attempted suicide during their lifetime, and about 6 percent had attempted suicide within the last year.

Mustanski, who is also a clinical psychologist and director of UIC’s IMPACT Program, said that the biggest question is whether LGBT youth are more likely to suffer from mental disorders compared to other kids, and that the answer depends on who they’re being compared to.

In this study, LGBT youths were more likely to suffer from mental disorders than the national average, but they were similar to other samples of minority groups (urban, racial, and ethnic).

The researchers also wanted to see whether bisexual youth tend to have more mental health problems than gay and lesbian youth, or whether racial-minority youth have more mental health problems than white youth.

The study suggests that, contrary to previous research that suggested bisexual youth are more likely to have mental health problems than other youth, bisexual youth actually had a lower prevalence of mental disorders compared with others in the study.

Source: Science Daily, One Third of LGBT Youth Suffer Mental Disorders, Chicago Study Finds, December 1, 2010

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