New data reveals vital acceptance for LGBTQ youth mental health
Adolescence and early adulthood are critical developmental periods. Mental, emotional, social and physical changes occur during this time, literally defining who we are and how we interact with the world around us. However, the safety and security of learning about ourselves and others comes from experiences, relationships, and acceptance by those we love.
And as long as there is extensive research Highlighting how important mental and emotional health is among young people, especially as suicide has become the second leading cause of death among young people in the United States, there has been surprisingly little exploration of the unique challenges that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer & Questioning (LGBTQ) youth face. This is especially true for understanding discrimination, disparities and how these lead to increased anxiety, depression and suicide.
Given the great need for richer and more comprehensive data and support for these young people, The Trevor project – the world’s largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth – hasn’t seen a better time to launch its new National LGBTQ Youth Mental Health Survey 2020. This effort, representing the experiences of more than 40,000 LGBTQ youth across the United States, has grown even more important as several crises in early 2020 will certainly have had an impact on youth mental health.
The high-level results of the survey suggest that the LGBTQ community faces considerable challenges in receiving the emotional, mental and physical care they need and deserve. For example, a majority of respondents experienced symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder and major depressive disorder (68% and 55%, respectively), while 48% said they had self-mutilated in the past 12 months. But the findings also underscore how much progress can be made in accepting young people for who they are and making informed changes to our healthcare system. Through research, advocacy, education and the dynamic changes in access to healthcare in early 2020, there is hope. According to Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project, “Discussions that people did not previously have in the national discourse are now underway. And, the more honest the conversations, the better.
When The Trevor Project began in the 1990s, it was a hotline focused on gays and lesbians aged 13 to 24. But since that time, the number of programs and resources has grown to meet the needs of the diverse youth it serves. This now includes several 24/7 crisis intervention and suicide prevention programs, as well as the world’s largest social networking site for LGBTQ youth: TrevorSpace. And, in 2020, it integrates the second National survey to better understand and grasp the disproportionate impact of suicide on LGBTQ youth.
The overall results underscore that support systems work to improve and save lives. But these support systems must assert identity and provide personal and environmental support, which means recognizing and accepting young people for who they are, where they are. In fact, those who reported having pronouns respected by all or most of the people in their life attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not enforce their pronouns. The tools for asserting sexual orientation also decrease the likelihood of general anxiety, depression, and suicide.
In contrast, unfortunately, the results suggest that negative associations and recent political actions and terminology have been detrimental to general well-being. As is the lack of psychological and / or emotional counseling from a mental health professional when desired. In the past 12 months alone, almost 50% of LGBTQ youth said they had not been able to receive the mental health care they wanted. In addition, six in 10 participants said their loved ones had tried to convince them to change their sexual orientation or gender identity – 35% saying this person was a parent or guardian.
No one can say that 2020 has not been a year of great change. And so, the survey grew between the first year (2019) and the second year, to reflect new information and dynamic situations. For example, this year looked at school and other places where young people spend their time, and more deeply on the people (from parents to celebrities) who influence the behavior of adolescents and young adults. Here are some of the top takeaways for 2020:
– 1 in 3 young LGBTQ people report having been physically threatened or injured in their lifetime because of their LGBTQ identity. And, those who experienced discrimination or physical violence because of their sexual orientation or gender identity were more likely to attempt suicide.
– 40% of LGBTQ youth and over 50% of transgender and non-binary youth report having seriously considered attempting suicide in the past 12 months.
– Only 13% of youth who reported high levels of support from family, friends or someone special said they had attempted suicide in the past year, compared to 22% of those who have lower levels of support.
– Unfortunately, 29% of LGBTQ youth have experienced homelessness, have been deported or have run away. Over 50% of transgender and non-binary youth report having been deported or running away because of their LGBTQ identity.
– 68% of LGBTQ youth reported symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder in the past two weeks and 55% of LGBTQ youth reported symptoms of major depressive disorder in the past two weeks.
– 46% of youth said they wanted mental health care but had not been able to receive it in the past year. Additionally, 40% of LGBTQ youth said they were unable to receive care directly because of concerns about parental permission.
– Almost 50% of transgender and non-binary youth did not receive desired mental health care due to concerns about the LGBTQ competence of providers.
– 10% of LGBTQ youth reported having undergone conversion therapy, of which 78% said it happened when they were under the age of 18. Additionally, those who underwent conversion therapy attempted suicide at a rate more than twice that of others.
– 48% of LGBTQ youth reported self-harm in the past 12 months, including over 60% of transgender and non-binary youth.
– Over 80% of young people said that LGBTQ celebrities have a positive impact on how they think they are LGBTQ.
– Conversely, 86% of LGBTQ youth said the recent policy had had a negative impact on their well-being.
The results of the two-year survey suggest: “Higher levels of support and acceptance are associated with significantly lower rates of suicide attempts. This includes the powerful role of gender-affirming care and support for transgender and non-binary youth, ”says Dr Amy Green, director of research at the Trevor Project. But Amit goes on to note that the data collected is used not only to understand where we are at, but also to identify ways to change systems of care in addition to environments and policies.
Additionally, as the Covid-19 pandemic rages across the United States, the intersection of health issues such as depression, anxiety and homelessness that are more common in the LGBTQ community must be addressed as it is compounded by the changing healthcare landscape. For example, as Dr Green points out, “school or college can often be a source of acceptance for LGBTQ youth. And now they don’t have that anymore. But I hope that changes in mental health care will improve and there will be more acceptance in other settings. “
Given the limited amount of previous research on the disproportionate needs of the LGBTQ community, the findings could have important advocacy and policy implications for LGBTQ youth. By increasing data collection, leaders can better identify and implement effective policies that will expand access and improve mental health care, thereby saving lives.
If you or someone you know needs help or support, Trevor Project’s trained crisis counselors are available 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386, via chat at the address TheTrevorProject.org/Help, or by sending START to 678678.