Preventing Addiction and Suicide in Transgender Teens

Transgender people experience a much higher rate of addiction and suicide as a result of social rejection. Transgender people are targets of prejudice, violence, and ignorance on a daily basis, making it no mystery as to why they are more likely to abuse substances.

Escaping a life of social rejection too often leads to suicide and dangerous levels of substance abuse, making it difficult to treat both addiction and suicidal thoughts within the transgender community. However, that certainly does not mean efforts are futile. There are several ways you can help to protect your transgender child from addiction and suicidal thoughts.

Accept Your Child

The most basic precaution you can take as a parent to ensure your child never feels the need to cope with substances is to accept them completely for who they are. As a parent, you are the first line of defense against your child being disregarded. For transgender kids, the most important thing their parents can do is to show unconditional love and support for your child through their journey to feeling comfortable with themselves.

Supporting a transgender teen is as easy as changing pronouns and using a new name. They need their identities accepted and respected, particularly by their parents. Take your child out shopping, invest in a wardrobe that makes them comfortable in their own skin. Get them a haircut or makeup. Let your child know you care by helping them become who they need to be.

Defend Your Child

One of the hardest parts about being the parent of a transgender child is defending them against ignorant or prejudiced people. If you do not defend your child when their identity is mocked or disregarded, you are sending them a message that you arenít willing to protect and support them.

Feeling unsupported by parents can be the first step toward unhealthy coping mechanisms and depression.

With your childís permission, sit down with friends, family, teachers, and any other people your child will need to be in close contact with. Explain what being transgender means, what is and isnít acceptable for them to say to your child, and most importantly, give them your childís new pronouns and name. If they cannot handle these changes for the sake of your childís happiness, they should no longer be involved in your childís life. A person who is unwilling to accept your child for the person they are can be a very real detriment to your childís mental well-being.

Seek Support

Preventing your transgender teen from going down the wrong path is a task that requires support. You may want to find a support group of other parents with transgender kids who may have more experience in dealing with unkind people, hormone treatments, and other unfamiliar terrain.

If your child is already struggling with depression or addiction, it is critical that you seek a trained, experienced counselor. A counselor who has dealt with transgender kids and teens before is preferable. While your love and support can make all the difference, a suicidal teen needs more than respect for their pronouns. A good counselor is irreplaceable when dealing with depression, addiction, or suicidal thoughts.

Finding out that your child is transgender can be shocking at first. Some parents never see it coming. However, this revelation should be treated as a happy occasion. If your teen feels safe enough to confide in you, they are offering you the opportunity to help them become healthy, happy adults who can rest assured that their parents have their back no matter what.

When teens do not believe they can talk to their parents about such sensitive topics as gender identity, they become reliant on unhealthy coping mechanisms such as substance abuse and self-harm. Parents who reject their children for who they are also find themselves more likely to bury their children in their lifetime. No parent wants to attend their childís funeral. Let your child know your love and support are unconditional and know when itís time to seek professional help. Your child does not have to become a statistic.

Jennifer McGregor is the co-creator of PublicHealthLibrary.org, which was made for one of her pre-med classes as a project. With the site, she intends to provide various resources pertaining to medical inquiries and general health. When Jennifer is not busy being a student, she enjoys walking her dog through the park.

Image via Pixabay by TawnyNina

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