High Rates of Suicide, Self-Harm Among Transgender Youth

Sad young teen looking at groundThirty percent of transgender teens and young adults have attempted suicide, and nearly 42% have engaged in some form of self-harm, according to a study published in the journal Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior.

Stigma and dissatisfaction with appearance figured prominently among the reasons for self-harm. Female-to-male transgender young people were slightly more likely to engage in self-harm.

Another study recently examined the process through which parents come to accept their transgender children. That research pointed to the role of parents in advocating for and protecting their kids.

Mental Health Issues Among Transgender Youth

The study looked at medical records of 96 transgender young people who sought care at Cincinnati Children’s Transgender Health Clinic. Participants ranged in age from 12-22. Since opening in 2013, the clinic has served nearly 500 transgender youth.

Dissatisfaction with the sex assigned at birth figured prominently in mental health challenges, as did concerns about weight and physical appearance. In addition to the 30% rate of attempted suicides and 42% self-harm rate, researchers found many other mental health difficulties were also common.

Most (58%) were diagnosed with gender dysphoria and at least one mental health condition. Sixty-three percent had previously experienced bullying, and 23% reported school expulsion or suspension. About 19% had been involved in physical fights, and 17% had repeated a grade.

The study’s authors say these findings show transgender young people are an at-risk population that could benefit from early interventions to improve mental health, educational outcomes, and overall well-being.

Estimated Number of Transgender People Has Doubled

Earlier this year, a study determined the number of transgender Americans might be double that of previous estimates. Based on state and general survey data, researchers concluded about 1.4 million people identify as transgender, accounting for about 0.6% of the population.

Some parents continue to believe their transgender children are going through a temporary phase or manifesting gender confusion, but a 2015 study undermines this notion. That study found transgender children express similar levels of confidence in their gender as cisgender (non-transgender) children do.


  1. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital study highlights high rates of suicide and self-harm among transgender youth. (2016, August 30). Retrieved from http://lovelandmagazine.com/cincinnati-childrens-hospital-study-highlights-high-rates-of-suicide-and-self-harm-among-transgender-youth/
  2. Hoffman, J. (2016, June 30). Estimate of U.S. transgender population Doubles to 1.4 million adults. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2016/07/01/health/transgender-population.html?_r=0

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  • Edie

    September 7th, 2016 at 2:05 PM

    When you think about how isolated and ostracized so many of these teens likely feel then it is pretty self explanatory why the suicide numbers are so high within this demographic. They feel alone and have very few people that they can trust and turn to, and when you are struggling with something as big as this, that can make one feel like there is no other alternative. It makes me sad that they are losing some of the best times of their lives because others are too narrow minded to be loving and accepting to all.

  • Bill d

    September 9th, 2016 at 1:54 PM

    More and more we are beginning to take closer looks at this very issue but you know that for a long time these sorts of things were the things that would inevitably be swept under the rug and not spoken about. It has only been pretty recently that I have noticed more of a trend to be more open about the facts of what so many of these young people have to deal with on a daily basis and the fact that there is more help out there now than ever is very reassuring to me. I wish that it was not that they felt the need to self injure, all because of who they are, but I am sure that the struggle is very real for a whole lot of younger people today.

  • nan

    September 12th, 2016 at 2:44 PM

    I would say that believing that this is a phase or is something temporary is as silly as believing that the world is flat.

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