Russ Toomey

Professor and Chair, Family Studies and Human Development
Interim Director, The Institute for LGBTQ+ Studies
Headshot of SXSW Speaker Russ Toomey


The Power of Representation in Preventing LGBTQ+ Youth Suicide

Saturday, March 12, 5 p.m.
Surround Stage


Nearly three decades of research documents that LGBTQ+ youth think about and attempt suicide at alarmingly higher rates compared to their heterosexual and cisgender peers. The differences in outcomes are explained by youths’ experiences with discrimination and stigma in society. The million-dollar question: How can LGBTQ+ youth survive and thrive in this hostile environment? Mapping Q is an arts-based suicide prevention program for LGBTQ+ youth in Arizona. This talk will provide insight and inspiration into how Mapping Q provides youth with the language, tools, and voice to overcome societal discrimination and stigma. The Mapping Q research collaboration suggests the key ingredients to LGBTQ+ youth survival and thriving are access, being seen, representation, and having a voice.


Dr. Russ Toomey is Program Chair and Professor of Family Studies and Human Development at the University of Arizona. Dr. Toomey also serves as the Interim Director for the Institute for LGBTQ+ Studies. He conducts research on the processes by which sexual and gender minority youth thrive and are resilient despite the oppressive barriers and challenges they encounter in society. His research identifies both the individual-level mechanisms (e.g., coping, activism) and systems-level policies (e.g., inclusive school policies) that reduce the impacts of discrimination and contribute to optimal health, well-being, and educational outcomes.

At the University of Arizona, he teaches undergraduate and graduate courses on adolescent development, human sexuality, professional development, and advanced graduate-level applied statistics. He serves on the Executive Council for the Society for Research on Adolescence and the Editorial Board for the Journal of Youth and Adolescence. Additionally, he serves on the Scientific Advisory Boards for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, GLSEN National, and the American Civil Liberties Union.