What is the prevalence of mental health problems among LGBT youth?


Young people in LGBTQIA + communities are more likely to experience mental health issues. This is largely due to the oppression and discrimination they may encounter in school, at home and in their community at large.

This article uses the term “queer,” which some members of LGBTQIA + communities consider offensive, to refer to self-identified participants in the studies.

Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and other gay (LGBTQ) youth have higher rates of mental health problems than the general population.

Research suggests that these mental health issues correlate with factors such as family acceptance and bullying. This indicates that stigma and discrimination, and not being LGBTQ itself, can predict mental health issues for LGBTQ youth.

In this article, we’ll discuss statistics on common mental health issues in LGBTQIA + communities, and where people can find support.

Suicide rates are rising in most groups, including adolescents. However, LGBTQ teens have even higher rates of suicidal actions and thoughts. A 2016 study suggests that lesbian, gay and bisexual youth consider suicide at nearly three times the rate of heterosexual youth.

The Trevor Project’s 2019 National Survey of LGBTQ Youth Mental Health found that 39% of LGBTQ youth had seriously considered suicide in the past year, with 71% of LGBTQ youth feeling sad or hopeless.

Click here to learn more about LGBTQIA + youth and depression.

A 2018 study found that transgender youth are being diagnosed with mental health at higher rates than their peers. They are also more likely to report abuse.

The Trevor Project highlights how rejection and discrimination affects the mental health of LGBTQ youth:

  • Two in three participants said that someone tried to convince them to change their sexual orientation.
  • In the report, 76% said the political climate affected their mental health.
  • Less than half spoke to an adult at school.
  • In the report, 58% of transgender and non-binary respondents said other people had discouraged them from using the bathroom based on their gender.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also underline this hostile climate, based on data from the 2015 survey on risky behavior among young people:

  • In the survey, 34% of LGBT youth were bullied in school.
  • Almost a fifth of respondents (18%) have experienced physical or dating violence.
  • In the survey, 18% of LGBT youth say they have been victims of sexual assault.
  • About 1 in 10 LGBT young people have been threatened or injured by a gun at school.

A 2013 national school climate survey by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network also highlights that schools can be dangerous learning environments and can expose LGBT youth to anti-LGBT behavior and discriminatory practices.

Most studies suggest that LGBTQ youth experience higher rates of anxiety and depression. A Trevor Project 2020 investigation indicates that the COVID-19 pandemic may have been particularly difficult for the mental health of young people who identify as gay.

LGBTQ youth were 1.75 times more likely than their peers to show symptoms of anxiety and depression. The figure was even higher among trans and non-binary youth, as they were 2.4 times more likely to experience anxiety or depression.

Respondents report that due to foreclosure procedures, many felt more exposed to stigma. In many cases, quarantining with unfavorable family members has exacerbated their anxiety.

About a third said they couldn’t be at home themselves, while 16% said they didn’t feel safe at home. About 1 in 4 people also said they were unable to access mental health care.

LGBTQ youth face the same stressors as other teens, such as:

  • the puberty
  • integrate with friends
  • conflict with parents
  • school
  • plan for the future

They must also fight against a society that can reject or stigmatize them.

A 2018 Human Rights Campaign report based on national survey data found much higher stress rates among LGBTQ youth. Some highlights include the following findings:

  • Almost all respondents (95%) report trouble sleeping at night.
  • In the past week, 77% said they felt depressed.
  • Only 26% said they always felt safe at school.

According to the Human Rights Campaign, LGBTQ youth are less likely to have family to turn to for help, which can make it difficult to obtain drug treatment. Some may turn to alcohol or drugs to heal themselves or to deal with the pain of rejection and bullying.

A 2015 study found that school rejection correlated with a higher risk of substance abuse among LGBTQ teens.

Anti-LGBTQ messages, family rejection, and fear can all affect self-esteem. A 2018 Human Rights Campaign survey reports that although most (91%) LGBTQ youth say they are proud of their identity, 70% reported feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness during the week. former.

Additionally, 67% of respondents said they heard from family members making anti-LGBTQ statements.

Feelings of rejection were highest among LGBTQ youth of color. Only 11% of them said that people viewed their racial or ethnic group positively.

Eating disorders are a way to cope with emotional pain, and some people use them to gain a sense of control when life seems to be getting out of hand.

A 2020 analysis suggests that 54% of LGBT people have been diagnosed with at least one eating disorder at some point in their lives. Another 21% suspect they have an eating disorder.

Although mental health issues are common among LGBTQ populations, a person does not have to suffer in silence. Here are some options for getting help:

  • contact a local organization or business that serves the LGBTQIA + community, such as a bookstore or advocacy organization
  • join a campus LGBTQIA + advocacy and support organization
  • get to know an LGBTQIA + adult who can reassure
  • share feelings with a trusted adult, such as a family member, teacher, or mentor
  • seek help from an affirmative LGBTQIA + therapist or counselor, such as a school counselor or college counseling center, who may be able to connect with resources

People can also seek help online through several organizations that provide support and advice. Resources for LGBTQIA + youth include:

LGBTQIA + youth can try to access free and confidential support from qualified professionals through national helplines. These hotlines are available 24 hours a day and can be helpful to anyone with mental health issues or to those who want or need to talk about their feelings.

If someone thinks someone is at immediate risk of suicide, they should call 911 or a local emergency number immediately. People should try to provide as much accurate information as the emergency services need.

Rejection, isolation, bullying, and safety concerns can all make it harder for LGBTQIA + youth to feel safe and supported. This can lead to mental health issues and may explain the higher rates among people from LGBTQIA + communities.

LGBTQIA + youth may try to access online support services or find support networks in their local community who may be able to provide care and support for identity affirmation.

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