Suicide Ideation Protective Factors for Sexual/Gender Minority Young Adults
Muehlenkamp, Jennifer J.
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Individuals who identify as a sexual and/or gender minority (SGM) report significantly higher rates of suicide ideation than heterosexuals and cis-gendered individuals. Identifying factors that may lead to, or protect against, this discrepancy in risk is important for protecting SGM youth and preventing suicide in this population. Minority Stress Theory (Meyer, 2003) argues that individuals in minority groups often face more hostile and stressful social environments which may contribute to the development of mental health problems and potentially increase risk for suicide. The Interpersonal Theory of Suicide (ITS; Joiner, 2005) argues that suicide ideation emerges from experiences of thwarted belongingness and perceived burdensomeness. The hostile social environments (e.g., minority stress) some SGM individuals encounter may contribute to higher levels of thwarted belongingness and perceived burdensomeness; thus, explaining some of the elevated rates of suicidal ideation in this population (e.g., Hatzenbuehler, et al., 2014). The large majority of studies regarding suicidal ideation among SGM focus on understanding risk factors, and very few look at protective factors. Of the few studies examining potential protective factors, it appears that SGM individuals who have increased self-esteem or who have experienced SGM-positive environments, like having a Gay-Straight Alliance (GSA) in one’s high school or cities, have reduced rates of suicidal thinking and attempts. Given there is some evidence that GSA participation and feelings of empowerment/self-esteem are associated with reduced suicidal thinking, we aimed to expand existing research by examining whether both GSA-participation/presence in one’s high school and feelings of empowerment would act as protective factors on the experience of thwarted belongingness or perceived burdensomeness thereby indirectly lowering suicidal thinking.
Sexual gender minority
Minority stress theory
Department of Psychology
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