The article titled “Psychological Distress, Self-harm, and Suicide Attempts in Gender Minority Compared with Cisgender Adolescents in the UK” by James White, Mai-Han Trinh, and Colleen A. Reynolds, published in BJPsych Open (2023), investigates the mental health disparities between gender minority and cisgender adolescents. This is done using data from the Millennium Cohort Study (MCS), a representative birth cohort in the UK, following children born in 2000-2002.
The study aimed to compare reports of psychological distress, behavioral and emotional difficulties, self-harm, and suicide attempts between gender minority and cisgender adolescents. The data at the 17-year follow-up included assessments of gender identity, psychological distress (using the Kessler K6 scale), behavioral and emotional difficulties (through parent and child reports on the Strengths and Difficulties Questionnaire), self-harm in the previous year, suicide attempts, substance use, and victimization (including harassment and physical and sexual assaults). The analysis used multivariable modified Poisson and linear regression models, and mediation effects through victimization and substance use were explored.
Results showed that out of the 10,247 participants, 113 (1.1%) reported that they were a gender minority. These participants reported significantly more psychological distress, behavioral and emotional difficulties, and higher rates of self-harm and suicide attempts compared to their cisgender peers. The associations were partially explained by differences in exposure to victimization. Gender minority adolescents experienced a disproportionate burden of mental health problems, indicating a critical need for policies to reduce victimization and services tailored to support the mental health of this group.
In conclusion, the study found that gender minority adolescents in the UK face significantly greater mental health challenges compared to their cisgender peers. The disparities are particularly pronounced in psychological distress, self-harm, and suicide attempts, with victimization playing a significant role in these associations. The study calls for targeted policies and practices to reduce victimization and better support the mental health of gender minority adolescents.
White, J., Mai-Han, T., & Reynolds, C. A. (2023). Psychological distress, self-harm and suicide attempts in gender minority compared with cisgender adolescents in the UK. BJPsych Open, 9(5) doi:https://doi.org/10.1192/bjo.2023.534