TW: Talk of mental health problems and suicide. Please protect your peace if you don’t feel you can handle that at this time.
Henry Berg-Brousseau died in 2022. The cause was ruled a suicide. Henry’s mother Karen Berg released a statement about her son’s death. In Berg’s statement she described how Henry “long struggled with mental illness, not because he was trans but born from his difficulty finding acceptance.”
Henry Berg-Brousseau clearly had family that affirmed and accepted his identity. Berg-Brousseau worked at the pro-trans organization “Human Rights Campaign” as the deputy press secretary. His work and personal environment appeared to be safe for him.
Henry is not the only trans person to choose to end his life despite receiving widespread affirmation by his loved ones. Kayleigh Scott also died by suicide recently. Scott was a trans woman and flight attendant. She was beautiful, accepted, and had a wide, supportive audience through her TikTok channel.
“She was this bright light that just loved and embraced everyone,” Scott’s mother Andrea Sylvestro said in a public statement, “She loved and showed compassion for everyone that reached out to her. She was so very special.”
And yet, despite being surrounded by extremely affirming environments, both Berg-Brousseau and Scott ended their lives. Berg-Brousseau died by suicide (according to his mother) as a direct result of “the hateful and vile anti-trans messaging being circulated around this country.”
Karen Berg’s words made me ponder the statistics for trans people who attempt suicide. I wondered how those numbers compared to other marginalized groups in American society.
Overall 0.3% of the American population has made a suicide attempt in the past year, according to the CDC. That’s pretty grim, but the good news is that that figure (from 2021) is down a great deal from suicide figures in 2015, which showed 0.6% of Americans having attempted suicide in the past year.
Unsurprisingly, suicide attempts among populations that experience systemic discrimination are higher than the overall suicide attempt rates in the US population. 2.1% of black Americans have attempted suicide at least once in their lifetime. 2% of cisgender gay men and 3% of cisgender gay women had attempted suicide at least once in their lifetimes.
Indigenous Americans have the highest rate of suicide attempts of any ethnic group in the US. The most recent statistics show that 20% of indigenous adolescent girls and 10% of indigenous adolescent boys have attempted suicide at least once. Suicidal ideation among Indigenous people is a huge problem. Indigenous communities already suffer from high rates of violence, alcohol abuse, domestic abuse and overall despair due to historical disenfranchisement of their culture. Self-governing Indigenous tribal communities in the US have some of the highest poverty rates in the nation.
Even the high rates of suicide attempts among Indigenous Americans are eclipsed by number of trans Americans who attempt suicide.
56% of trans youth have attempted suicide in the past year and 86% of trans youth report suicidal thoughts.
These stats have been confirmed in several peer-reviewed studies and surveys by the Trevor Project. As I have spoken about before even trans youth who receive gender-affirming hormone treatments still maintain an unacceptably high rate of suicidal thoughts at 56%.
Trans advocates are firm when it comes to who to blame for the massively high rates of suicidality among trans people: It’s society’s fault!!!
JK Rowling is to blame! Ricky Gervais is to blame! Dave Chappelle is to blame! Every single TERF who ever criticized Lia Thomas is to blame! Every single cis lesbian who ever turned down a trans woman for sex is to blame!
Even conservative estimates of suicide attempts in the trans population are well over four times the percentage of suicide attempts found in American Indigenous populations. By this logic then, the “Gender Critical” crowd is far more dangerous than the centuries of genocide, smallpox, land theft, cultural erasure and abuse that Indigenous American people suffered.
Which just seems a little unlikely. Seriously?
The only population that is even close to trans Americans when it comes to the percentage that has attempted suicide at least once during their lives is Americans who have schizoaffective disorder. 50% of Americans with schizoaffective disorder, according to one study, have attempted suicide at least once during their lifetimes.
And here we start to tread on dangerous ground.
Why does the trans experience seem to share the same architecture as severe mental health disorders? Why do suicide attempt rates for trans people far outstrip suicide attempt rates for other marginalized communities while matching the suicidality rates for people suffering from severe mental health disorders? And why do over 50% of trans youth continue to attempt suicide even AFTER they receive gender-affirming care?
0.3% of Americans overall attempt suicide every year. 56% of trans people attempt suicide every year, even after they receive gender-affirming care.
It’s time to face some uncomfortable facts. People who identify as a gender that is not part of their natal sex carry a high risk of suicidal thoughts. These thoughts are not the fault of society or TERFs or the Harry Potter lady or Dave Chappelle. These suicidal thoughts are part of the diagnosis of gender dysphoria, and the thoughts do not appear to be alleviated no matter how much validation trans people receive.
More concerningly, severe mental health symptoms like “euphoria” are celebrated in the trans community. “This gives me gender euphoria” is a common statement of positivity in response to a trans person receiving some form of gender affirmation. Euphoria, however, is not necessarily a good thing. According to the American Psychological Association, An exaggerated degree of euphoria that does not reflect the reality of one’s situation is common in manic episodes and hypomanic episodes.
What’s wrong with feeling euphoric? Well, as the saying goes, the higher you fly the harder you fall. Many trans people talking about their euphoric experiences during their gender transition have described sudden episodes of depression coming seemingly out of nowhere. These feelings of severe depression often occur after feeling gender euphoria.
People who experience these depressive “crashes” in mental health conditions like bipolar 1 can be so badly affected that they will want to end their lives. This is the reason why psychiatrists are often concerned when they encounter a patient who is in a very euphoric state.
Doctors who study trans and gender dysphoric people need to be able to do their jobs without fear of being “cancelled” if their research goes against a socially-acceptable trans narrative.
Henry Berg-Brousseau did not have to die. Kayleigh Scott did not have to die. They both had love and validation and acceptance but they ended their lives anyway.
If we can save more trans people from deaths by suicide, we have to start asking some hard questions. Just blanket-blaming society for bad mental health rates among trans people when the statistics show deeper causes is dishonest.
And, worst of all, it’s not saving trans people.