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Research shows COVID-19 impact on LGBTQ youth’s mental health

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The Trevor Project last week released the findings of its 2021 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, finding that 42% of respondents seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year

An overwhelming majority of LGBTQ youth also reported recent symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder or major depressive disorder, yet nearly half of respondents reported wanting mental health care in the past year but were not able to get it.

The survey provided insights into suicide risk factors, the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, mental health care disparities, discrimination, food insecurity, and conversion therapy

The Trevor Project said study also speaks to the potential impacts of current events, with 94% of LGBTQ youth reporting that recent politics negatively impacted their mental health and 70% stating that their mental health was “poor” most of the time or always during COVID-19. Half of all LGBTQ youth of color reported discrimination based on their race/ethnicity in the past year, including 67% of Black LGBTQ youth and 60% of Asian/Pacific Islander LGBTQ youth.

“The past year has been incredibly difficult for so many LGBTQ young people because of multiple crises, from the COVID-19 pandemic to the hostile political climate and repeated acts of racist and transphobic violence. This data makes clear that LGBTQ youth face unique mental health challenges and continue to experience disparities in access to affirming care, family rejection, and discrimination,” said Amit Paley, Trevor Project CEO.

Across The Trevor Project’s 24/7 crisis services platforms, LGBTQ youth have expressed a wide range of struggles over the last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. This study reveals that more than 80% of LGBTQ youth stated that COVID-19 made their living situation more stressful, and only 1 in 3 youth found their home to be LGBTQ-affirming. Nearly 40% of LGBTQ youth who had a job reported that they lost it during the pandemic. And 30% of LGBTQ youth reported having trouble affording enough food in the past month, including half of all Native/Indigenous LGBTQ youth and more than 1 in 3 Black and Latinx LGBTQ youth. Historically, both unemployment and food insecurity have been consistent risk factors for suicide.

“The Trevor Project is the largest suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth, but even we do not know how many LGBTQ youth die by suicide each year because that data is simply not collected systematically. This third annual survey aims to fill the gaps in the limited research we do have on LGBTQ youth mental health and suicide risk as a means to raise public awareness and improve public health interventions,” said Dr. Amy Green, vice president of research.

Survey results demonstrate that respecting transgender and nonbinary youth’s pronouns and allowing them to change their name and/or gender marker on legal documents are associated with lower rates of attempting suicide.

Paley added, “To all the lawmakers considering anti-transgender bills across the county — we urge you to take a hard look at this evidence and take time out of your day to actually meet with the transgender and nonbinary youth who would be harmed by your misguided proposals.” Paley said. “Affirming a young person in their gender identity is strongly associated with lower suicide risk. That’s why we should be expanding systems of support and implementing more inclusive policies, not denying trans youth access to affirming spaces and care.”

LGBTQ youth who had access to spaces that affirmed their sexual orientation and gender identity consistently reported lower rates of attempting suicide.

  • Nearly 7 in 10 LGBTQ youth had access to online spaces that affirmed their sexual orientation and gender identity. Interestingly, an overwhelming majority of LGBTQ youth said that social media has both positive (96%) and negative (88%) impacts on their mental health and well-being.
  • Half of all LGBTQ youth said that their school was LGBTQ-affirming.

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