McDermott, Elizabeth, Hughes, Elizabeth and Rawlings, Victoria (2017) Norms and normalisation: Understanding LGBT youth, suicidality and help-seeking. Culture, Health and Sexuality. ISSN 1369-1058

Globally, suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds. Young people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) have elevated rates of suicide. Despite the increased risk, there is a paucity of research on LGBTQ help-seeking and suicidality. We report on a UK sequential exploratory, two-stage, mixed method study. Stage one involved 29 online and face-to-face semi-structured interviews with LGBTQ youth aged 16-25 years old. Stage two utilised an online LGBTQ youth questionnaire employing a community-based sampling strategy (n=789). Results indicated that participants only asked for help when they reached a crisis point because they were normalising their emotional distress. Those who self-harmed, had attempted or planned suicide, or had experience of abuse related to their sexuality or gender, were most likely to seek help. Results also suggested that the reluctance to seek help was due to three prominent interconnecting factors: negotiating sexuality, gender, mental health and age norms; being unable to talk about emotions; and coping and self-reliance. It is crucial that policies aiming to prevent LGBTQ youth suicide recognise that norms and normalising processes connected to sexual orientation and gender identity are additional difficulties that LGBTQ youth have accessing mental health support.

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