June marks LGBTQ Pride Month, an opportunity to celebrate the diversity of gender identification and sexual orientation. Pride Month also affords a chance to pause and consider the mental health challenges many individuals on the LGBTQ spectrum face daily.
[Note: LGBTQ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transexual, queer. Variations of the acronym include LGBTQI to include intersex individuals (e.g., persons with differences of sexual development); LGBTQIA to include intersex and androgenous and/or asexual individuals. A plus sign (+) is often added to represent all other sexual- and gender-diverse people as well. Here, we use LGBTQ in line with the organizers of Pride Month.]
A new survey by The Trevor Project shows the extent to which mental health issues disproportionately affect LGBTQ youth. At the same time, the results underscore how safe spaces and social support positively impact the well-being of LGBTQ youth.
Vermont’s Most Visible LGBTQ Advocate Weighs In
In Vermont, organizations serving LGTBQ communities are hosting a number of events throughout the month to help raise awareness about gender-identity issues and challenges. One of the state’s most public figures, state Senator and Senate President Pro Tempore Becca Balint, is an advocate both for LGBTQ rights and for reducing the stigma of mental illness.
Senator Balint said her aim is to bring forward an agenda that educates the legislature about LGBTQ+ Vermonters.
“There’s a role of being a very public figure.,” Sen. Balint said. “A mentor to many queer, gay, trans youth in Vermont who’ve never seen themselves of [sic] someone who could in a position of political power.”
Stigma, Isolation Increase Risks to LGBTQ Youth
The kind of isolation that Balint experienced as a tween and teenager is not uncommon among LGBTQ youth. Scientists Martín J. Sepúlveda, M.D., Sc.D. and Charlotte J. Patterson, Ph.D., addressed this In a commentary in JAMA Pediatrics about a landmark report. The report, from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine, investigated the well-being of LGBTQ individuals
“Notwithstanding the improving societal acceptance of sexual and gender diversity and the potential for positive social relationships from coming out, labeling, stereotyping, and discrimination by dominant groups remain considerable burdens for LGBTQI youths. Stigma can result in social isolation and exposure to abuse, violence, and mistreatment for sexual and gender diverse youths.”Martin J. Sepulveda and Charlotte J. Patterson
Survey Documents the Mental Health Toll
The Trevor Project survey highlights the mental-health toll of stigma and isolation among LGBTQ youth. Among some of the key findings of the survey:
- 40% of LGBTQ respondents seriously considered attempting suicide in the past twelve months. More than half of transgender and nonbinary youth have seriously considered suicide.
- 68% of LGBTQ youth reported symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder in the past two weeks. That includes more than 3 in 4 transgender and nonbinary youth.
- 48% of LGBTQ youth reported engaging in self-harm in the past twelve months. The proportion rose to over 60% in transgender and nonbinary youth.
- 46% of LGBTQ youth report they wanted psychological or emotional counseling from a mental health professional but were unable to receive it in the past 12 months.
The poll captured the experiences of more than 40,000 LGBTQ youth ages 13-24 across the United States. It is the largest survey of LGBTQ youth mental health ever conducted.
Safe Spaces and Support Critical for LGBTQ Youth
The survey underscored how critical safe spaces and peer support are to navigating life as an LGBTQ youth. Youth reporting high levels of support were much less likely to report having attempted suicide than those without support. Similarly, youth with access to at least one in-person LGBTQ-affirming space reported fewer suicide attempts than those without such space.
“This wealth of data highlights the resiliency and diversity of LGBTQ young people and demonstrates how important affirming one’s identity is to their health and wellness,” said Amit Paley, CEO and executive director of The Trevor Project. “Findings from this cross-sectional survey also point to best practices for how to support LGBTQ young people and contribute positively to their mental health.”
Find Resources and Support for LGBTQ Youth
Pride Center Vermont’s website has a comprehensive list of Vermont-specific LGBTQ resources.
Outright Vermont provides education and outreach, large-scale events and safe spaces for LGBTQ youth throughout the state.
Vermont PBS is offering a special line-up of programming relevant to the LGBTQ community throughout the month of June.
NAMI, the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, has a web section dedicated to LGBTQI issues and tips for coping and finding the right mental healthcare provider.
Local mental health agencies that are part of the Vermont Care Partners network provide programs and supports for Vermont’s LGBTQ youth.
For tips on coping with stress, self-care guides, apps, and much more, visit the Resources section of our website.
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