Survey: One in four LGBT Colombians have attempted suicide

A new survey from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law and the Colombia Collaborative Project finds that the majority (72%) of LGBT Colombians surveyed report at least moderate psychological distress. Fifty-five percent reported having suicidal thoughts during their lifetime and one in four (25%) had attempted suicide at least once.

Researchers analyzed data from a non-probability sample of 4,867 LGBT people from across Colombia, with respondents in 29 of Colombia’s 32 departments and in the Capital District. The researchers sought to describe demographic characteristics, exposure to stress, discrimination and violence, and health status.

Findings show that LGBT respondents experienced high levels of victimization and discrimination—75% of LGBT respondents were bullied at least once before they turned 18, and 25% were fired from or denied a job in their lifetimes.

“We recorded extremely high rates of suicidal ideation and attempt. Considering the levels of violence, victimization, and discrimination that LGBT respondents experienced, it is not surprising that respondents reported such high rates of suicidal ideation and attempts,” said study co-author Jennifer Flórez-Donado. “This research shows how critical it is to develop suicide prevention and violence treatment programs for LGBT people in the country.”

Key Findings

  • One in five LGBT respondents (21%) had received conversion therapy, a practice discredited in the United States as ineffective and harmful by the American Medical Association, the American Psychological Association, and other national health associations. An even higher proportion (35%) of transgender respondents reported having received it.
  • A majority of gay men (71%), bisexual men (65%), lesbian/gay women (60%), bisexual women (61%), and transgender people (76%) experienced verbal assault over their lifetime.
  • Three out of four LGBT respondents (75%) were bullied at least once before they turned 18 and 25% of LGBT respondents were fired from or denied a job in their lifetime.
  • 20% of LGBT respondents reported that the police or state officials had been verbally abusive, and 11% reported physical abuse. Transgender respondents reported the highest rates of verbal (29%) and physical abuse (24%) by law enforcement.
  • LGBT respondents felt a high affiliation with their LGBT community. Respondents agreed with statements saying they feel like they are a part of the LGBT community, are proud of the LGBT community, and have a bond with the LGBT community.

“While this study represents the largest study on LGBT people in Colombia to date, more data are needed to provide a comprehensive understanding of the lives of LGBT people. In particular, our study is not representative of the total Colombian population and therefore may have unknown biases,” said study author Ilan H. Meyer, Distinguished Senior Scholar of Public Policy at the Williams Institute. “Collecting data that identify LGBT people in national and regional public health surveys can inform policymakers and community advocates on how to better serve the needs of the LGBT community in Colombia.”

The Colombia Collaborative Project includes (listed alphabetically): Soon Kyu Choi, the Williams Institute; Shahrzad Divsalar, Institute for Digital Research & Education at UCLA; Jennifer Flórez-Donado, Ser Feliz Is Free; Krystal Kittle, the Williams Institute; Andy Lin, Institute for Digital Research & Education at UCLA; Ilan H. Meyer, the Williams Institute; and Prince Torres-Salazar, Universidad Simón Bolívar.

The Williams Institute, in partnership with Universidad Simón Bolívar, Dejustica, and Colombia Diversa, will host a webinar on Wednesday, May 13 to discuss the findings of the report.

Read the report:

In English

In Spanish

May 6, 2020

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