Structural Stigma and Suicide Risk in Gender & Racial Minority Students: A Novel Study to Understand & Reduce Inequality

How do college and university policies shape the lived experiences of transgender and gender nonconforming students and contribute to mental health inequalities?

Sarah Ketchen Lipson seeks to understand the lived experiences of transgender and gender nonconforming (TGNC) college students and the impact of campus policies on TGNC suicidality across intersectional identities. In this two-part study, Lipson will compare changes in suicidal ideation and attempts between TGNC and cisgender students on campuses with and without different types of policies, as well as conduct in-depth qualitative interviews with TGNC students to explore, among other questions, how they experience campus policies and internalize other structural systems. Lipson’s prior research has focused on describing individual-level predictors of mental health in college, and the proposed research reflects an intentional shift toward examining structural drivers of inequalities and the processes by which policies can reduce inequalities. Through independent study, annual meetings, coursework, and workshops, she seeks to develop new expertise in causal inference and mediation analysis, qualitative research, TGNC mental health, and theories drawn from sociology, psychology, and critical race and gender studies. Lipson’s mentors are Bryn Austin, professor of Adolescent and Young Adult Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School as well as Professor of Social and Behavioral Sciences at Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, and David Jernigan, professor of Health Law Policy and Management at the Boston University School of Public Health.

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