About one of every six students in grades 9 through 12 contemplates suicide every year, according to The Trevor Project. And the statistics are even more concerning when it comes to LGB youths. Queer kids are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight peers, according to the organization.
While it's definitely still true that LGBTQ people face stigma worldwide — stigma that contributes to these statistics — researchers at Johns Hopkins University and Harvard University found that legalizing same-sex marriage reduced LGB suicide attempts by 7 percent.
It seems strange. Why would kids in their freshman year of high school be so affected by the fact that they could someday get married? For many LGBTQ people marriage equality felt like a small win, especially when queer people could still be fired for their sexuality and transgender people (and specifically women of color) are murdered for their gender identity.
But the change might not be about marriage, the researchers said in a statement about the study. States that legalized marriage equality before the Supreme Court ruling made it legal nationwide likely had a greater percentage of people who supported queer rights — and therefore students at the time felt less stigma.
“There may be something about having equal rights — even if [these students] have no immediate plans to take advantage of them — that makes students feel less stigmatized and more hopeful for the future,” Julia Raifman, a study author, said in the statement.
The researchers took data from an annual survey of high schools students done by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and looked through answers from 762,678 students who completed the survey from 1999 to January 2015 (before marriage equality was made legal nationwide.)
Overall, 28.5 percent of students who identified as a sexual minority said that they had attempted suicide in the last year, as compared to 6 percent of those who identified as straight. Of those who identified as a sexual minority and completed the survey between 2004 and 2015 when some states began legalizing same-sex marriage, about 7 percent fewer reported a suicide attempt if they lived in a state where same-sex marriage was legal.
From their data, study authors estimate that legalizing same-sex marriage nationwide meant there are about 134,000 fewer queer kids attempting suicide each year.
The data is incredible, and makes a strong argument for passing more laws protecting LGBTQ rights, even though the current political climate makes the chances of that seem pretty dismal.