High rates of suicide, suicidal thoughts in transgender teens

(WHTM) — The number of young LGBTQ people who have considered suicide is rising. Between the ages of 18 and 24, the rate is already more than three times the national average.

The Trevor Project, a suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth found the numbers are particularly high for transgender teens. According to its 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, almost one in five transgender and nonbinary youth attempted suicide in the last year.

abc27 spoke to Lillian Munsch, a transgender woman who said she wants to share her story to give young trans people hope for the future.

Munsch has been retired for nearly a decade, and she now spends her days taking pictures, woodworking and building toys for her grandchildren. Just a few years ago, however, her life looked completely different.

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“I transitioned in 2016,” Munsch said.

Munsch said she knew she was transgender as a child.

“I would go to bed at night praying I’d wake up as a girl the next morning,” she said.

However, growing up in the 1950s, she did not know how to talk about it. She said the word “transgender” did not exist.

“I thought I was the only person who felt this way, I didn’t know anyone else,” Munsch said.

For over 60 years, Munsch said she tried to pretend, until things finally came to a head in 2015. Munsch attempted suicide, overdosing and ending up in the hospital. From there, she connected with a therapist and started the process of transitioning and accepting herself.

“Without her, I sometimes question whether I’d be here,” Munsch said of her therapist.

Munsch is not alone. Suicide and suicidal thoughts are not uncommon in the LGBTQ community, particularly among transgender teens.

“I don’t want to see children thinking about suicide,” Munsch said.

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A national survey from the Trevor Project found nearly half of trans girls considered suicide in the last year. For trans boys, that rate is almost 60 percent.

“I personally have had those thoughts,” Holly Evans, family and youth coordinator with Transcentral PA.

Evans works closely with family and friends of trans children in her position with Transcentral PA, a Midstate support group for trans people.

“They need that unconditional love to know that they’re okay, they’re accepted by their family,” she said.

Evans said her work includes talking to parents of trans kids about suicide, and helping them figure out how to support their children.

“It could be as simple as…going to a Pride event,” she said. “You have to let them know it’s okay, that they’re okay who they are.”

Munsch wants to be part of that support system. She said she hopes sharing her story lets trans teens know they have a future.

“You can survive, you can get through this,” Munsch said.

Munsch and Evans both told me the support they have received from their family during their transition has been a blessing. Data from the Trevor Project backs that up. The national survey found LGBTQ youth who feel supported by their family attempted suicide at less than half the rate of those who experience low family support.

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