Transgender People Who Have Access to Puberty Blockers Are Less Likely to Have Suicidal Thoughts, Study Finds

Transgender people who have access to drugs which prevent the body from going through puberty are less likely to think about taking their lives, a study suggests.

The researchers examined the use of what are known as gonadotropin-releasing hormone analogues (GnRH analogues). Also known as puberty blockers, these drugs suppress hormones made by the body to help stop physical changes which can be distressing for some trangender children. The effects of the drugs are reversible if a child stops taking them.

The drugs were developed over the past two decades to help transgender adolescents align their bodies with their gender identities, explained the authors of the paper published in the journal Pediatrics. Experts say they enable the children who need them to continue exploring their gender identities while deciding whether they want irreversible forms of treatment. In the U.S., around 1.8 percent of the population identifies as transgender.

The study involved 20,619 transgender adults across the U.S., who were aged between 18- to 36-years-old. The participants detailed whether they had used puberty blockers. They also answered questions about whether they had ever had thoughts about taking their life.

3,494, or 16.9 percent, said they had wanted to use the drugs at any point, but only 2.5 percent of those we able to access them. Of those who hoped to take them but weren't able to, 9 out of 10 thought about ending their lives. The study also revealed 45.2 percent of those interested in the drugs were assigned male at birth.

Senior author Dr. Alex Keuroghlian, director of the National LGBT Health Education Center at The Fenway Institute told Newsweek: "We found that youth who desired pubertal suppression and received it had a third the odds of lifetime suicidal ideation when compared to youth who desired pubertal suppression but did not receive it."

Keuroghlian, who is also director of the Massachusetts General Hospital Psychiatry Gender Identity Program, described the rate of suicide attempts among transgender people as a "public health crisis," as one previous study suggested up to 40 percent of such adults have attempted to take their lives at some point.

"We are focused on understanding the relationship of gender-affirming medical care, such as pubertal suppression, to suicide risk among transgender adults," he said.

Dr. Jack Turban, lead author of the study and resident physician in psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital and McLean Hospital, told Newsweek: "It was interesting to see that only a minority of transgender people ever desired pubertal suppression. This highlights the diversity within the transgender community and that transition is a very personal experience that is not the same for everyone."

Turban went on: "The research is particularly important now, as several states have introduced legislation that would make pubertal suppression for transgender adolescents illegal. Some of these bills threaten physicians who offer this medical care with jail time." Such states include South Carolina, Texas, Georgia, and Kentucky.

"This study adds to the growing literature that shows that affirmation of transgender youth is associated with better mental health outcomes. The more we collect data, the more we find this consistent pattern: trying to change gender identity is dangerous, and affirming gender identity is protective," he said.

Detailing the approach the team took, Keuroghlian said: "It was important to compare transgender people who desired pubertal suppression and received it with transgender peers who wanted this medical care but did not receive it. We also needed to control for any differences in the level of family support for gender identity, since family supportiveness has a known association with better health among transgender people.

As with all studies, the work was limited in some ways. Turban acknowledged: "The study was cross-sectional. We hope that ongoing prospective studies will add to our findings and help us to better understand the mental health effects of pubertal suppression for transgender youth."

Commenting more widely on what affects the health of transgender people, Keuroghlian concluded: "Strong family support is a key factor for transgender youth to have good mental health and thrive. Parents of transgender kids ought to connect with local services and programs dedicated to helping families learn to support their child's gender affirmation at home, at school, and in their community."

If you have thoughts of suicide, confidential help is available for free at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. Call 1-800-273-8255. The line is available 24 hours, every day.

The Trevor Project, which provides crisis intervention to LGBTQ young people, runs the TrevorLifeline 24/7. If you or someone you know is feeling hopeless or suicidal call 1-866-488-7386. Counseling is also available 24/7 via chat every day at TheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by texting 678-678

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Transgender People Who Have Access to Puberty Blockers Are Less Likely to Have Suicidal Thoughts, Study Finds | Health