Reducing suicide rates among LGBTQ young people focus of new UT study

September is National Suicide Prevention month, and researchers at the University of Texas are spearheading a new study, hoping to reduce suicide among young people—particularly those in the LGBTQ community.

"We know that LGBTQ young people are more likely to have thought about suicide, to have made plans to attempt suicide, and more likely to have died by suicide," said Phillip Schnarrs, Associate Professor of Population Health at Dell Medical School.

In fact, a 2018 study by the Qwell Community Foundation and Dell Medical School found that 40% of LGBTQ young adults in Central Texas thought about suicide at least one day in the past week.

"This is a significant increase in the amount of suicidal ideation that we're noticing recently," said Jamison Green, former president of the World Professional Association for Transgender Health.

That’s why a new study called the Reach Out and Connect (ROC) Project is looking at early intervention in primary care settings—before depression, anxiety or trauma turn into a crisis.

"This is an effort to kind of meet the community where it's at," said Lilith Beason, a licensed personal counselor.

The study is being led by Dell Medical School and the Steve Hicks School of Social Work at the University of Texas at Austin, the UT Southwestern Medical Center and Texas Health Institute. Researchers are teaming up with Austin healthcare providers like the Kind Clinic and the Center for Health Empowerment, recruiting 18- to 24-year-old patients who’ve had suicidal thoughts—to figure out what kind of intervention is most effective.

"What we're hoping to accomplish with this study is to connect people to resources and to connect people to conversations that pull them out of their isolation and their despair, and move them into community so that they can get the support that they need," said Green.


One struggle has been building trust with some LGBTQ youth, who’ve often been targets of stigma—but for researchers who’ve been in a dark place themselves, it’s a challenge worth taking on.

"Suicidality and the ripple effect it can have in your life is something that I myself am familiar with," said Beason.

"I attempted suicide when I was younger," said Schnarrs. "To walk through that and to come out on the other side okay, I’m grateful for it. And I want to be able to do research that helps young people.

If you’d like to learn more, the ROC Project will be holding a town hall in the Health Learning Building Auditorium at Dell Medical School on Saturday, September 24 from 2:00-3:30 p.m. You can attend either in-person or virtually by signing up here.

If you or someone you know needs help, the Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is 9-8-8. It can be reached by call or text. The Trevor Project also offers counseling help specifically geared toward LGBTQ young people through the Trevor Lifeline. You can reach that by calling 1-866-488-7386 or text ‘START’ to 678-678.