Alberta’s planned transgender rules could lead to increased depression, suicidal thoughts: psychiatrists

By News Staff

Alberta’s proposed transgender youth policies have the potential to increase anxiety, depression and suicidal thoughts in the 2SLGBTQ+ community, according to a group representing the province’s psychiatrists.

Citing a handful of American studies, the Alberta Psychiatric Association (APA) says the proposed policies “have the potential to lead to significant negative mental health outcomes amongst an identifiable, already marginalized population.”

The APA says similar legislation passed in the U.S. “increased levels of anxiety, depression and suicide” among 2SLGBTQ+ individuals, as well as the number of hospital visits.

Alberta Premier Danielle Smith announced last week her plans to change rules for transgender children in the province, including a ban on gender reassignment surgery for those 17 and under; and no puberty blockers or hormone therapies for the purposes of such surgery for anyone 15 and under.

Parental consent would be required for students 15 and under who want to change their names or pronouns at school. Students aged 16 and 17 would not need consent, but their parents would have to be notified.

And the province would clamp down on transgender female athletes competing in women’s and girls’ sports.

Smith said the changes are to protect children from the consequences of choices they may later regret and to preserve the role of parents in their lives.

In a letter issued to Smith Tuesday, the APA expressed its “deep concern” for the policies. The group says transgender and gender non-conforming youth are already at higher risk of depression, anxiety disorder, and suicide attempts. The association of psychiatrists fears the policies would make things worse.

“Potential harms can have broad societal impact including increased homelessness, substance use, and increased use of mental health resources will impact public health resources and the local communities of all Albertans,” the APA wrote in its letter signed by president Sudhakar Sivapalan.

“These policies appear to have the potential to further isolate a population already at higher risk of negative mental health outcomes.”

The APA is asking the UCP government to “strongly” reconsider the policies.

“We would suggest that government increase investment in mental health resources that support access to family therapy to open up communications and help shift challenging dynamics that may be blocking important discussions at such a critical time in a child’s development.”

The group representing Alberta’s psychiatrists is hardly the first to voice its concern since Smith announced the changes.

Dozens of organizations and businesses signed a joint statement against the province’s new trans policy last week, calling for an immediate halt.

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