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Keywords:

  • qualitative research;
  • sexuality;
  • suicide and self-destructive behaviour;
  • young people

Abstract

The research presented in this paper set out to explore the cultural context of youth suicide and more specifically any connections between sexual identity and self-destructive behaviour, in the light of international evidence about the disproportionate risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people. The empirical basis for the paper is qualitative research that was carried out in the North West of England and South Wales. Focus groups and interviews were conducted with a total of 69 young people, with a purposive sample to reflect diversity of sexual identity, social class and regional and rural-urban location. The paper presents a thematic analysis of the data specifically relating to the experiences of LGBT young people. A range of strategies that LGBT young people employ in the face of distress are described. These are categorised as resilience, ambivalence and self-destructive behaviour (including self-harm and suicide). The potential implications for health and social care of these strategies include the need for ecological approaches and for sexual cultural competence in practitioners, as well as prioritisation of LGBT risk within suicide prevention policies.