Factors associated with suicide attempts among Australian transgender adults

Sav Zwickl, Alex Fang Qi Wong, Eden Dowers, Shalem Yiner Lee Leemaqz, Ingrid Bretherton, Teddy Cook, Jeffrey D. Zajac, Paul S.F. Yip, Ada S. Cheung

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Abstract

Background: Transgender, including gender diverse and non-binary people, henceforth referred to collectively as trans people, are a highly marginalised population with alarming rates of suicidal ideation, attempted suicide and self-harm. We aimed to understand the risk and protective factors of a lifetime history of attempted suicide in a community sample of Australian trans adults to guide better mental health support and suicide prevention strategies. Methods: Using a non-probability snowball sampling approach, a total of 928 trans adults completed a cross-sectional online survey between September 2017 and January 2018. The survey assessed demographic data, mental health morbidity, a lifetime history of intentional self-harm and attempted suicide, experiences of discrimination, experiences of assault, access to gender affirming healthcare and access to trans peer support groups. Logistic regression was used to examine the risk or protective effect of participant characteristics on the odds of suicide. Results: Of 928 participants, 85% self-reported a lifetime diagnosis of depression, 63% reported previous self-harm, and 43% had attempted suicide. Higher odds of reporting a lifetime history of suicide attempts were found in people who were; unemployed (adjusted odds ratio (aOR) 1.55 (1.05, 2.29), p = 0.03), had a diagnosis of depression (aOR 3.70 (2.51, 5.45), p < 0.001), desired gender affirming surgery in the future (aOR 1.73 (1.14, 2.61), p = 0.01), had experienced physical assault (aOR 2.01 (1.37, 2.95), p < 0.001) or experienced institutional discrimination related to their trans status (aOR 1.59 (1.14, 2.23), p = 0.007). Conclusion: Suicidality is associated with barriers to gender affirming care, gender based victimisation and institutionalised cissexism. Interventions to increase social inclusion, reduce transphobia and enable timely access to gender affirming care, particularly surgical interventions, are potential areas of intervention.

Original languageEnglish
Article number81
Number of pages9
JournalBMC Psychiatry
Volume21
Issue number1
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 8 Feb 2021

Keywords

  • Depression
  • Mental health
  • Suicide
  • Transgender

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