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LGBTQ+ Youth and Mental Health

LGBTQ+ Youth and Mental Health

Results of the Trevor Project’s third annual National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health were released. After the past year, it will come as no surprise that LGBTQ+ youth are struggling.

Students holding a Pride flag The Trevor Project is a nonprofit focused on suicide prevention for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning (LGBTQ+) youth to which Myriad Neuroscience is a contributor.

According to the survey, “42% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth.” Additional responses from the survey shed some light on why this may be occurring in LGBTQ youth as the survey found that:

  • “More than 80% of LGBTQ youth stated that COVID-19 made their living situation more stressful — and only 1 in 3 LGBTQ youth found their home to be LGBTQ-affirming.”
  • “70% of LGBTQ youth stated that their mental health was ‘poor’ most of the time or always during COVID-19.”
  • “75% of LGBTQ youth reported that they had experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity at least once in their lifetime.”

In what could be foreshadowing of an impending mental health crisis, nearly half of LGBTQ youth have wanted counseling from a mental health professional but did not receive it in the past year.

Factors That May Lead to Depression in LGBTQ+ Youth

Acceptance of sexual orientation and gender identity – both your own and others’ – is important to mental health – both yours and others’!

Button with GeneSight logo and text learn more about the GeneSight testThe journey of self-discovery and acceptance for LGBTQ youths is often difficult. Internalized homophobia and denial of true sexuality are just some of the reasons that LGBTQ+ people may begin to struggle mentally.

External factors such as unsupportive family/friends, homelessness, and hate crimes may affect LGBTQ people’s ability to cope with mental illness and seek support. According to a Research-to-Impact brief conducted by the Voices of Youth Count research initiative at the University of Chicago, LGBTQ young adults are more than twice as likely than their non-LGBTQ counterparts to experience homelessness, which severely impedes their ability to access mental health resources.

Safety and Respect Lead to Better Outcomes

When members of this community are respected and supported, the results for these LGBTQ young adults are very different. For example the Trevor Project study found that:

  • “Transgender and nonbinary youth who reported having pronouns respected by all of the people they lived with attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not have their pronouns respected by anyone with whom they lived.
  • Transgender and nonbinary youth who were able to change their name and/or gender marker on legal documents, such as driver’s licenses and birth certificates, reported lower rates of attempting suicide.
  • LGBTQ youth who had access to spaces that affirmed their sexual orientation and gender identity reported lower rates of attempting suicide.”

The Trevor project study also shared “hundreds of ways [LGBTQ youth] find joy and strength,” including:

Positive words from LGBTQ+ youth about what makes them happy including “affirming parents” and “feeling seen.”How Can We Help the LGBTQ+ Community?

In an ideal world, the external factors that harm LGBTQ people would be eliminated, such as homophobia and violence.

It seems so simple: Kindness. Acceptance. Respect. Safety.

There’s no doubt that hate and fear deeply affects members of this community. While legal rights and protections have helped, that does not mean LGBTQ+ are always safe in the United States. Additionally, worldwide, there are still many other countries without laws designed to protect LGBTQ+ people.

Those who are experiencing mental health issues should seek out a clinician who is supportive and experienced counseling in this area. This expertise could provide a more comfortable and understanding environment for treatment.

During a GeneSight Cares webinar focused on the double stigma of having a mental illness and being gay or queer, Debi Thomas, a nurse practitioner in Louisville, Ken., recommended that clinicians shouldn’t ask their patients to educate them on the whole history, culture, and language of the LGBTQ+ experience. Practitioners should do their own learning about this community outside of therapy sessions so that they can be educated in how to best serve them.

“A lot of times, our patients who are in the LGBTQ+ community are a little weary of having to continually educate their providers,” Thomas said. “We should take it upon ourselves to educate ourselves, and not expect our clients to educate us.”

There are online resources such as the Trevor Project, which offers online communities and helplines for LGBTQ youth and allies. Other sites such as NAMI (the National Alliance for Mental Illness) and Mental Health America , as well as the U.S. Department of Health & Human Service’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), provide educational tools and inspiring stories for and by the LGBTQ community.

Pride Month – observed in June to recognize the contributions of LGBTQ individuals on our shared history – is a good time to talk about depression and its impact on the LGBTQ community. The GeneSight LGBTQ+ web page is specifically designed to share mental health resources for clinicians and patients to learn more about how to make a difference, reduce stigma, and increase understanding of how to help the LGBTQ+ community get to mental wellness.

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Our articles are for informational purposes only and are reviewed by our Medical Information team, which includes PharmDs, MDs, and PhDs. Do not make any changes to your current medications or dosing without consulting your healthcare provider.

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