Sexual orientation differences in non-suicidal self-injury, suicidality, and psychosocial factors among an inpatient psychiatric sample of adolescents
Within broader community samples, sexual minority adolescents (SMA, e.g., lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer) are at greater risk than their heterosexual counterparts for nonsuicidal self-injury (NSSI) and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. The present study investigated whether sexual minority orientation continues to confer additional risk for these behaviors in an already higher-risk sample of youth. Frequency and function of NSSI, suicidal behavior, and psychosocial factors were assessed in a sample of 52 adolescents (aged 12–18 years) admitted to an inpatient psychiatric unit due to suicide risk; 27 of them identified as SMA, and 25 as heterosexual (HA). Greater proportions of SMA reported engaging in lifetime NSSI, compared to HA, with a greater variety and frequency of NSSI behaviors and greater endorsement of intrapersonal NSSI functions. SMA reported higher levels of suicide ideation than HA, but not suicidal behavior. Group differences in NSSI and SI persisted when controlling for the greater prevalence of abuse and levels of peer-victimization reported by SMA. In inpatient clinical settings, SMA may be more likely than heterosexual youth to engage in NSSI, including more severe forms, and to experience suicide ideation. Providing alternative coping mechanisms may serve as treatment goals for reducing NSSI in SMA.