Suicide Prevention Day: Transgender people’s mental health


Content Warning: This article contains mentions of suicide and self-harm.

Understanding Suicide Prevention Day: Insights and Supportive Resources

Today marks World Suicide Prevention Day, a global initiative where organisations from around the world unite to raise awareness about mental health support and emphasise the critical importance of preventing suicide. Our aim is to shed light on the unique challenges faced by the trans and gender-diverse community concerning mental health issues and offer resources to help address these challenges.

The rate of suicidal ideation is significantly higher within the trans community

In July 2023, a study done by the Williams Institute of UCLA School of Law revealed a worryingly high number of trans people have thought about suicide. The study used data from the US Transgender Population Health Survey and also examined drug use and psychological distress. It found that transgender people were more likely to experience mental health issues during their lifetimes.

The vast majority, 81% of trans adults in the US, have contemplated taking their own life. Comparatively, 35% of cis adults have had suicidal thoughts. Moreover, 42% of trans people attempted suicide compared to only 11% of cis adults. Over half, 56%, also engaged in self-harming behaviour compared to 12% of cis people. The difference between these numbers is appalling yet predictable. Over the past years, anti-trans hate has skyrocketed so it is not surprising to see trans people struggling with their mental health.

Williams Institute of UCLA School of Law’s results align with a previous 2023 study done by the LGBTQ+ charity Just Like Us. Their study found that 88% of transgender and 83% of non-binary young adults have had suicidal thoughts. Just Like Us also highlighted that over three-quarters of the trans community self-harmed.

Contributing factors

While the leading factors for the high suicide rates were not outlined in the Williams Institute of UCLA School of Law’s study, the lack of access to gender-affirming healthcare, endless waiting times, anti-trans bills, increased violence and unemployment rates, lack of LGBTQ+ education and overall lack of support all negatively impact trans and non-binary people’s mental health. The interim CEO of Just Like Us, Amy Ashenden, explained that ‘it is no surprise that living in a society that often fails to support LGBT+ young people, and can even be actively anti-LGBT+, takes a toll on their mental and physical health’.

One significant contributing factor to the decline in mental health is the long wait for transgender healthcare. Back in November of 2022, the Good Law Project – a non-profit campaign organisation – appealed to the UK High Court to fight for trans rights and challenge the endless waiting times in the NHS. Members of the campaign had compared the wait to ‘torture’, pushing trans people to their mental limits. During the hearing, one of the claimants, Eva, described her wait for gender-affirming healthcare as a ‘painful indefinite limbo’. Another co-claimant also stated that he attempted suicide twice because of the long waiting times.

Despite the severity of the situation, in January 2023, the UK High Court rejected the Good Law Project’s appeal. One of the claimants stated that they were ‘extremely disappointed’ by the High Court’s decision. It only serves to ‘prolong the mental health suffering of the trans community’.

Even though studies have proven that access to gender-affirming healthcare improves trans people’s mental health, lowering symptoms of depression and anxiety, governments around the world are trying to ban it or make people wait years to access this life-saving care.

What can you do if you are struggling with your mental health and questioning your gender identity?

We spoke with Luna Lee, a Wellbeing Team Manager at GenderGP. She explained what you can do and how family members and friends can help and support their trans loved ones who are dealing with mental health issues as well as those questioning their gender identity.

Luna: Reaching out is the first step. It doesn’t have to be a family member, just someone you are able to speak to. Another option is to contact helplines … and seek professional help [below you can find a list of helpful resources]. Specifically for trans and non-binary people who experience gender dysphoria, … it is always helpful to seek a professional with experience in LGBTQ+ matters. People who have worked with the LGBTQ+ community before, know how to navigate it and how to not make it the focus of every session. You can also join support groups. There are LGBTQ+ and trans support groups where you are able to connect on similar experiences.

Another option is self-care. There are so many facets to it. It’s not just exercising and good nutrition. It also includes meditation, mindfulness, and relaxation techniques. If you have anxiety, you can learn a lot of different ways that can lower your heartbeat and overall stress. The last suggestion I would give is to try and educate yourself. Learn more about what gender diversity is and explore it. While it is scary, there is also a lot of excitement around it. Have fun exploring who you are … and that in itself can really boost your self-esteem, and help you understand your mental health, your triggers and your feelings.

How can you help a trans loved one who is struggling with their mental health?

Luna: Listen actively. You should encourage the individual to talk about their feelings. Remember, you are not there to comment or at this point to make someone feel better. You are listening to what they are saying, and you are trying to get a full understanding of their feelings – without judgment. Remember to show empathy. Even if you are not trans, even if you are a cisgender, heterosexual person you can still have empathy towards their situation because there are common feelings involved, such as anxiety, self-doubt, and low self-esteem. Being able to connect your understanding to their understanding will help … so that they know they are being listened to.

Another important step is to stay calm. This is a lot harder to do if the person is someone you love but staying calm shows that you are actively listening. It also gives the individual the knowledge that they can speak with you without it being this massive emotional trauma, which is why a lot of people don’t speak out, because they fear the response of others, even if it is not done maliciously. It is so much more daunting when you’re going to have such a serious conversation with someone and know they are going to get upset, frustrated, or panicked.

From there, you should slowly start encouraging professional help. You don’t want to have someone speak with you and the first thing you say to them is go seek professional help. It is just not helpful. The chances are the person has already thought about that. It is more about encouraging them in an easy way to take that first step. Remember to stay connected with the individual.

In really crucial situations, if the person is actively thinking about taking their own life or harming themselves, it is important to remove immediate dangers. Ask them if there is anything that you can do to help,…and involve others. If the person is likely to harm themselves, it is important that you seek assistance from a professional. Don’t involve people that will worsen the situation. They are a loved one for a reason, so love and care for them.

How can you as a parent or legal guardian help your trans child?

Luna: Open communication is much more important. Provide them with an environment where they are able to communicate free from being judged. Another step is to seek out resources … and professional help. There are a lot of professionals who understand mental health, LGBTQ+ issues, and gender dysphoria. Parents can also explore LGBTQ+ support groups for both themselves and their children.

As a parent or guardian of a trans child, you need to educate yourself. You don’t have to become an expert on mental health or LGBTQ+ issues but understand what it is. Understand what being trans means. If you understand LGBTQ+ issues, then you’re not going to give the impression that once your child comes out to you, they are going to be met with ignorance. Affirm and support your child’s gender journey. Remember, your trans child has most likely thought about being trans or gender diverse before. They have not come to you with a random thought so, affirming them is extremely important.

Helpful resources

If you are facing challenges with your mental well-being, we strongly urge you to seek assistance. Don’t hesitate to confide in your friends and family, and also consider reaching out to trained professionals for support and guidance.

Global resources:

UK-based resources:

  • Mermaids: Supports trans and gender-diverse young people, offers an online chat, helpline 0808 801 0400, and a 24/7 text number 85258. The chat and helpline services are open Monday to Friday from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m.
  • Samaritans: Specialises in mental health support where you can speak to a Samaritan. Their helpline, 116 123 is open 24/7.
  • Switchboard: Call Switchboard on 0300 330 0630. The hotline is open daily from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
  • Galop: Provides various helplines tailored to specific concerns, including domestic abuse, and hate crime, and a national conversion therapy helpline dedicated to LGBTQ+ individuals.
  • National Suicide Prevention Helpline UK: For people in an immediate mental crisis, including thoughts of suicide call their team on 0900 689 5652 from 6 p.m. – 12:00 a.m. daily.
  • Mind: Specialises in mental health support, it should be noted this service provider does not offer crisis intervention. Call their helpline on 0300 123 3393, open Monday – Friday from 9 a.m.- 6 p.m.
  • LGBT Foundation: Similarly to Mind, this is not a crisis service. LGBT Foundation is a charity that delivers advice to the LGBTQ+ community on a variety of different issues. For advice, support, and information call 0345 30 30 30.
  • Call 111, option 2: You can call this UK helpline if you are struggling with your mental health and feel that you are in immediate danger of harming yourself or someone else.

European resources

  • Ireland: TENI (Transgender Equality Network Ireland) focuses specifically on trans and gender-diverse people. Belong To is one of Ireland’s main LGBTQ+ youth organisations. For further assistance, consider visiting LGBT Ireland, where you can access a national LGBTQ+ helpline and a transgender family support line.
  • Sweden: The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Rights (RFSL) offers face-to-face support and online counselling sessions. Contact them on 020 34 13 16 or visit their support service for more detailed information.
  • Finland: Seta ry is the main LGBTQ+ rights organisations. Visit their website for more information.
  • Germany: The Lesben- und Schwulenverband in Deutschland (LSVD) is an LGBTQ+ organisation dedicated to the legal and social equality of queer, trans and gender-diverse people. Reach out to them for a comprehensive list of community resources.
  • Netherlands: The COC Netherland is the oldest existing LGBTQ+ organisation in the world. Contact them for a list of resources within the community.
  • The International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association Europe (ILGA) Is one of the largest organisations dedicated to advancing LGBTQ+ rights worldwide. Contact them for an updated list of resources.
  • Dial 112 for the European Emergency Number if the country you live in is part of the EU.

US-based resources:

  • The Trevor Project: Is a suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ+ youth offering 24/7 support services. Contact their counsellors by calling 1-866-488-7386, texting them at 678-678, or using their online chat services.
  • National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Offers free and confidential support and resources for people in crisis. Call them on 988. They are open 24/7.
  • Trans Lifeline: This is a grassroots hotline and non-profit organization that provides crisis support to the transgender community, by members of the transgender community themselves. To reach a trans or non-binary peer operator, dial (877) 565-8860.
  • Gender Spectrum: Organises online support groups for transgender and gender-diverse children, parents, and other family members, offering an opportunity to connect with individuals who may have shared experiences.