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Mental Health Crisis Among LGBTQ+ Youth Continues — But It Doesn't Have To

Mental Health Crisis Among LGBTQ+ Youth Continues — But It Doesn't Have To

Sad young person

Acceptance at school and home makes a big difference, says a new Trevor Project report.

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LGBTQ+ young people continue to report high rates of mental health challenges and suicide risk, and experiences of anti-LGBTQ+ stigma and victimization contribute to this, says a new report from the Trevor Project.

The findings are from the group’s 2023 U.S. National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People, its fifth annual such survey. Released Monday, it represents the experiences of more than 28,000 LGBTQ+ people ages 13 to 24 across the country.

The survey found that 41 percent of respondents seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including half of transgender and nonbinary young people and 29 percent of cisgender young people. Fourteen percent attempted it, including nearly one in five trans and nonbinary young people and nearly one in 10 cisgender young people. Suicide attempts were more common among youth of color.

Sixty-seven percent of respondents reported recent symptoms of anxiety and depression, yet 56 percent of those who wanted mental health care in the past year were not able to access it. The top four barriers to care reported by young people were the same as the previous year: fear about discussing mental health, concerns with parental permission, fear of not being taken seriously, and lack of affordability.

“For the fifth consecutive year, these data underscore that anti-LGBTQ victimization contributes to the higher rates of suicide risk reported by LGBTQ young people and that most who want mental health care are unable to get it,” the report states.

“LGBTQ young people are not inherently prone to suicide risk because of their sexual orientation or gender identity but rather placed at higher risk because of how they are mistreated and stigmatized in society,” it explains.

The rash of anti-LGBTQ+ bills being proposed and often passed in state legislatures is part of this victimization. Nearly one in three respondents said their mental health was poor most or all of the time due to such legislation and policies, and nearly two in three “said that hearing about potential state or local laws banning people from discussing LGBTQ people at school made their mental health a lot worse,” the Trevor Project notes.

Harassment at school and lack of acceptance at home were factors in victimization too. A majority of survey participants reported being verbally harassed at school because they were perceived to be LGBTQ+. Conversely, “roughly half of transgender and nonbinary young people found their school to be gender-affirming, and those who did reported lower rates of attempting suicide.”

Sixty percent of respondents said they have felt discriminated against in the past year due to their sexual orientation or gender identity — 64 percent due to gender identity, 51 percent due to sexual orientation.

LGBTQ+ young people are also at risk of physical harm. Twenty-four percent reported they had been physically threatened or harmed in the past year due to their sexual orientation or gender identity — 27 percent due to gender identity, 18 percent due to sexual orientation.

Those who had not encountered discrimination or threats reported far lower rates of suicide attempts.

“The Trevor Project’s fifth annual national U.S. survey adds to a growing body of literature detailing the harmful mental health impacts of anti-LGBTQ victimization on young people and the life-saving potential of support and acceptance,” Dr. Ronita Nath, vice president of research for the Trevor Project, said in a press release. “The [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s] latest data emphasized that queer students face disproportionate rates of poor mental health and suicide risk — and our research takes it a step further by illuminating disparities among LGBTQ young people across age, gender identity, race/ethnicity, region, and expansive sexual orientations. As the existence of LGBTQ young people continues to be unfairly put up for debate, it’s critical to consistently underscore that these challenges are not inherent to LGBTQ identity, but rather stem from stigma, discrimination, and violence.”

“Among transgender and nonbinary young people, half seriously considered suicide, and one in five attempted suicide in the past year. This is a public health crisis — and it’s preventable,” added Kasey Suffredini, the Trevor Project’s vice president of advocacy and government affairs. “Our government must work from the top down to curb risk factors like violence and discrimination and increase access to essential health care, safe schools, and support systems. Yet far too many lawmakers at the state level are working overtime to push a dangerous political agenda that will jeopardize young lives. We understand that some of these issues can seem complicated for people who’ve never met a transgender person, but the impact of victimization on our young people is clear and dire.”

The Trevor Project also asked respondents to describe a world where all LGBTQ+ people are accepted. Frequent answers included “People are able to express themselves and be who they want to be”; “People mind their business”; “People have better mental health”; “Gender-neutral bathrooms”; “No one would have to worry about coming out”; and “No more anti-LGBTQ laws.” Respondents said that the world would feel better, happy, peaceful, beautiful, safe, and comfortable.

The survey was conducted using an online platform between September 1 and December 12 of last year. Respondents were recruited via targeted ads on social media. The full document is available here.

If you are having thoughts of suicide or are concerned that someone you know may be, resources are available to help. The 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline at 988 is for people of all ages and identities. Trans Lifeline, designed for transgender or gender-nonconforming people, can be reached at (877) 565-8860. The lifeline also provides resources to help with other crises, such as domestic violence situations. The Trevor Project Lifeline, for LGBTQ+ youth (ages 24 and younger), can be reached at (866) 488-7386. Users can also access chat services at TheTrevorProject.org/Help or text START to 678678.

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Trudy Ring

Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.
Trudy Ring is The Advocate’s senior politics editor and copy chief. She has been a reporter and editor for daily newspapers and LGBTQ+ weeklies/monthlies, trade magazines, and reference books. She is a political junkie who thinks even the wonkiest details are fascinating, and she always loves to see political candidates who are groundbreaking in some way. She enjoys writing about other topics as well, including religion (she’s interested in what people believe and why), literature, theater, and film. Trudy is a proud “old movie weirdo” and loves the Hollywood films of the 1930s and ’40s above all others. Other interests include classic rock music (Bruce Springsteen rules!) and history. Oh, and she was a Jeopardy! contestant back in 1998 and won two games. Not up there with Amy Schneider, but Trudy still takes pride in this achievement.