The passing of transphobic laws increased internet searches for ‘suicide’ and ‘depression,’ study finds

The study also found that when a transphobic bill was defeated, the number of searches on those topics decreased 

A new study investigating the impact of anti-trans legislation on internet searches for “suicide” and “depression” showed that searches for these terms increased when an anti-trans bill was passed. 

Researchers found that when state and local governments passed anti-trans bills, the number of searches about the keywords “suicide” and “depression” increased by between 13 and 17 percent. They also found that when an anti-trans bill was defeated, the number of searches on those topics decreased. There was no significant difference in the number of searches on those topics when an anti-trans bill was in the introduction phase, the committee phase or the debate phase. 

The research team, led by Dr. George Cunningham of the University of Florida, also found that the greater the density of LGBTQ2S+ individuals in a given state that passed transphobic laws, the higher the number of searches for the term “suicide” in particular. It is unclear whether or not the searches were always conducted by people with intent to harm themselves. 

In the same study, the research team found that transphobic laws can increase feelings of stigmatization in the trans community, which can lead to serious mental health consequences. 

“Our findings suggest that mental health of people in a state is threatened not just by the occurrence of discriminatory acts, but by the passage of stigmatizing laws as well, and suggests that the mental health interventions used already should be adapted to respond to anti-trans legislation,” concluded Dr. Cunningham and his team, adding that the elementary and high school communities that have been particularly hit hard by the transphobic legislation “should be particularly aware of this need.”

The research team’s findings match up with what advocates have been seeing on the ground. The Trevor Project reported last month that they received nearly 4,000 crisis contacts from trans and non-binary Texan youth in 2021, who reached out due to feeling stressed and considering suicide because of the nearly 40 anti-trans laws being debated that year in the state. Furthermore, 85 percent of trans and non-binary youth say anti-trans laws have had a negative impact on their mental health. 

Transphobic laws aren’t the only thing negatively impacting trans and non-binary youth’s mental health. Last month, The Trevor Project found the overwhelming majority of LGBTQ2S+ youth are dissatisfied with their bodies, with the rates of trans and body dissatisfaction for non-binary youth even higher. They also reported that body dissatisfaction was linked to significantly higher odds of reporting a suicide attempt in the past year. 

“These findings underscore that an overwhelming majority of LGBTQ2S+ youth struggle with body dissatisfaction, something that can severely impact their mental health and contribute to higher odds of attempting suicide,” said Dr. Myeshia Price, director of Research Science at The Trevor Project in an interview with the Los Angeles Blade. She encouraged all professionals who work with youth to “discuss how body image may be impacting the LGBTQ2S+ youth they support.”

 

Conversely, a study published last month found that trans and non-binary youth who receive gender-affirming hormone therapy are happier after the treatment. Nearly two-thirds of the participants who reported severe depression at the beginning of the study reported mild or moderate depression at its end. These findings are particularly crucial in light of the more than two dozen bills seeking to ban or restrict gender-affirming care that were introduced across the U.S. last month. 

Diamond Yao is an independent writer and journalist who focuses on contemporary social and environmental issues. Based in Montreal/Tio’tia:ke, her work focuses largely on marginalized voices, intersectionality, diaspora, sustainability and social justice. Her work has been featured in the Toronto Star, Autostraddle, La Converse and the CBC.

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