Abstract: Is There a Need for LGBT-Specific Suicide Crisis Services? (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

236P Is There a Need for LGBT-Specific Suicide Crisis Services?

Friday, January 18, 2019
Continental Parlors 1-3, Ballroom Level (Hilton San Francisco)
* noted as presenting author
Daniel Green, MSW, PhD Student, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Jeremy Goldbach, PhD, Associate Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Harmony Rhoades, PhD, Research Associate Professor, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA
Background. LGBT youth are more than twice as likely to make a suicide attempt than their peers.  Although LGBT-specific crisis services have been developed, little is known about the need for these services beyond that of general lifeline services. The present study sought to 1) describe the primary reasons for calling a specialized provider as opposed to another; and 2) examine socio-demographic differences in the primary reason across race, ethnicity, gender, age, and sexual orientation. 

Method. Data from 657 youth who sought crisis services from an LGBT-specific national service provider in the United States were assessed.  Logistic regression models assessed demographic differences. Thematic analysis of open-ended responses of reasons for choosing this LGBT-specific crisis service provider followed a consensus model.

Results. Most respondents indicated they either would not have contacted another help line (26%) or are not sure (48%).  Nearly half (42%) indicated they called specifically because of LGBT-affirming counselors, and this was more commonly reported by gender minority (transgender and gender non-binary) and queer or pansexual youth than cisgender, gay or lesbian youth.

Discussion. LGBT-specific crisis services appear to play an important role in suicide prevention, and further research is needed to understand the use of culturally tailored suicide prevention approaches. Specifically three findings help define the gaps that may be filled using LGBT-specific crisis services. 1) youth overwhelmingly reported that the primary reason they chose to call this provider was because it is LGBT-affirming; 2) there were differences across certain subpopulations of LGBT youth in their reasons for engaging with this provider, which offers insight into this population’s diversity. For example, transgender and gender non-binary individuals were more likely to endorse the LGBT-affirming nature of the provider as a major driving force in their engagement; 3) when callers were asked if they would have contacted another provider if the LGBT-specific crisis provider were not available, more than a quarter of them said no and nearly half were unsure. This is arguably the strongest evidence supporting the need for population-specific services for LGBT youth. This suggests that the choice for these struggling youth was not between different crisis services but between this LGBT crisis service and not getting any help, increasing their risk for a serious suicide event.