It is estimated that nearly 40% of LGTBQ youth have or will have a suicide attempt at some point during their lifetime. In a recent study conducted by Kristina Olson, director of the TransYouth Project at the University of Washington, transgender youth who transform their appearance to match their gender identity rather than their sex assigned at birth may not necessarily experience mental health problems more often than other children.
The small study included 73 children ages 3 to 12, all of whom are transgender, 49 of their siblings, plus a control group of 73 non-transgender kids who were similar in age and gender identity. The transgender kids in the study all had begun social transitioning, which allows the child to change things like their hair and clothes to match their gender identity. None of the children had gone through puberty or taken any hormones, and they all had support from their families.
Many other studies that have been conducted have revealed that individuals who identify as transgender are at a higher risk for depression, anxiety, and suicide. What this new study revealed is that family support may be the key to happiness and mental health.
“The thinking has always been that kids who are not acting gender-stereotypically are basically destined to have mental health problems,” said Olson. “In our study, that’s not the case.”
Her study found that the 73 children’s happiness levels were ranked closely to their siblings and the control group. However, their levels of anxiety were slightly higher.
“Our findings suggest that mental health problems are not inevitable in this group and that family support might buffer these children from the onset of mental health problems so commonly observed in people who are transgender,” she said. This research could be used to help educate parents of youth who are transgender about the importance of creating an environment of acceptance.
“I think they’re proof that you can be a kid today who is transgender and be happy and healthy and doing just as well as any other kid,” said Olsen. “It’s some good news, finally, which I don’t think there’s much of in what we hear about kids who are transgender.”
Kailey Kocourek, Project Coordinator for The Kim Foundation
Kailey Kocourek joined The Kim Foundation in July 2018 as the Project Coordinator. She coordinates the Metro Area LOSS Team and provides mental health awareness and suicide prevention education in the community. Prior to that, she worked for a local nonprofit organization developing programs to improve access to health care for the underserved. She received her Bachelor’s Degree from UNO in Public Health in 2015 and is currently working towards her Master’s in Public Health from UNMC, expecting to graduate in May 2019. She was drawn to the nonprofit world because of her passion for helping and educating others. She is an active member of the Nebraska Suicide Prevention Coalition, the Metro Area Suicide Prevention Coalition, and the Nebraska State Health Improvement Plan’s Depression and Suicide Health Priority group.