A new study of transgender military veterans found that their rate of suicide is very similar to that of veterans suffering from schizophrenia or serious depression.
The research of the general population of transgender individuals (TIs) so far indicates a troubled and disturbed community. Suicidal ideation — a mental obsession with self-destruction — reaches as high as 60% in the general transgender population, and the risk of attempted suicide is fixed at 30% . The 30% figure has remained stable over multiple studies in Europe, though much more evidence is available regarding violence, rates of HIV infection, smoking, and prison time.
Since 2011, Veterans Affairs has set the health of TIs as a priority through a national directive. According to the directive, staff need to be educated on TI health issues and how to best serve these individuals.
In this case, researchers looked at a sample of 3,327 transgender veterans over a period of 10 years, from 2000 to 2009. They found that the overall suicide rate was 82/100,000 person-years, a figure calculated by taking the number of incidences in a population and dividing it over time. The average age of suicide for transgender veterans was 49.4 years. Researchers used data from Veterans Affairs databases, since there are far more TIs in the military population, compared to the general population.
Overall, veteran suicide rates are only at 37.7/100,000 person-years. When combined with factors like substance abuse and schizophrenia, the rates jump up to 81.2 and 83.3, with schizophrenia just edging over the category of transgender as a cause of suicide. What makes the transgender population distinct is that suicides occurred at an even younger age than among veterans who killed themselves as a result of suffering from schizophrenia.
“Self-directed violence is a major concern among transgender populations, but information about rates of death by suicide is limited,” study authors noted when discussing the results.
During the study, approximately 9.3% of the sample died. For this subset of the overall sample, researchers listed 64.2 years as the average age for patients dying from disease and 49.4 years as the average age of suicide.
Said William Byne of the James J. Peters Veterans Affairs Medical Center in New York:
VA has a multifaceted strategy to reduce suicide among veterans. Its commitment in 2011, and reaffirmed in 2013, to provide respectful transgender-specific healthcare as well staff training in transgender cultural awareness and sensitivity may also address the high suicide rate among transgender veterans.
Back in 2012, the American Medical Association removed the term “gender identity disorder” to apply to individuals who feel uncomfortable with their gender and replaced it with “gender dysphoria.” At the time of the decision, Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality said:
The changes help make clear that there is nothing pathological about having a transgender identity, and that the role of the mental health profession is to affirm and support individuals in being themselves in the face of societal misunderstanding.
This report, by Jonah Bennett, was cross-posted by arrangement with the Daily Caller News Foundation.