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Worsening mental health of LGBTQI+ youth calls for new federal policy that I’m leading

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"This bill is straightforward yet impactful, offering support to LGBTQI+ youth who have nowhere else to turn for help," writes Rep. Sharice Davids.

No child should ever feel like they don’t belong in our world. Sadly, many LGBTQI+ youth grapple with their differences, perceiving them as daunting obstacles to their well-being.

Take Anthony Alvarez from Kansas, my home state, who courageously embraced his identity as a young teenager. He attributes his journey of self-acceptance to conversations with health care professionals, which helped both him and his parents embrace his sexuality and individuality.

It's crucial to recognize the unique challenges LGBTQI+ youth face regarding their mental well-being and to end the bullying and animosity they often endure, not only from their peers but also from certain politicians across our nation.

The Trevor Project has highlighted the alarming severity of LGBTQI+ youth mental health challenges. In 2024, their survey revealed that 39 percent of LGBTQI+ teens — including roughly half of trans and nonbinary teens — had seriously contemplated suicide in the past year. Also, 54 percent of young queer individuals seeking mental health care were unable to access it, with 90 percent reporting worse mental health due to anti-equality politicians' attacks on the LGBTQI+ community.

LGBTQI+ youth not only contend with typical childhood hurdles, like social anxiety and hyperactivity, but also face discrimination through extreme legislative proposals at all levels of government. To make matters worse, the current U.S. mental health care system lacks the capacity to adequately address mental health challenges for all youth. Simply put, it’s hard to be a kid in our society. That’s why I'm supporting proactive measures to protect our youth, including my bill, the Pride in Mental Health Act.

This bill is straightforward yet impactful, offering support to LGBTQI+ youth who have nowhere else to turn for help. Through a new federal grant program, it would increase access to culturally competent and affirming mental health services, offer training for health care providers to better grasp the unique needs of LGBTQI+ individuals, and gather updated data on the mental and behavioral health of LGBTQI+ youth. Ultimately, it takes us one step closer to a more inclusive and equitable society — one where patients, doctors, clinicians, and other health care providers can make informed decisions, based on data and science, to support our youth.

Making these investments in LGBTQI+ youth mental health is not only a moral imperative but also a smart public health strategy that benefits our entire community and economy. In the Greater Kansas City Area, the annual cost of untreated mental illness has grown to cost $624 million annually. Smarter policy means saving taxpayer money and getting people more help. For every $1 invested in scaled-up treatment for youth depression and anxiety, there is a $4 return in better health and productivity. That’s because addressing mental health early can lead to better long-term outcomes, reducing the likelihood of future mental health crises.

We have a lot of work to do in advancing equity in mental health, which is why I’m proud that my Pride in Mental Health Act has gained the support from 165 of my Democratic colleagues in the House — including Representatives Eric Sorensen and Ritchie Torres who joined me in introducing the bill. I’m also grateful to have Senators Laphonza Butler and Tina Smith championing this critical legislation in the Senate.

We have already lost too many young people who believed the world would be better without them. LGBTQI+ youth deserve attention and action from their elected leaders regarding the challenges they face. It's not just about statistics or policies — it's about the lives and futures of these young individuals who deserve every opportunity to flourish and feel valued in a world that embraces their uniqueness. We must pass the Pride in Mental Health Act.

Congresswoman Sharice Davids represents Kansas’s 3rd Congressional District and is a Co-Chair of the Congressional Equality Caucus. The Pride in Mental Health Act has received endorsements from the Congressional Equality Caucus, the Human Rights Campaign, The Trevor Project, the American Psychological Association, and the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Voices is dedicated to featuring a wide range of inspiring personal stories and impactful opinions from the LGBTQ+ and Allied community. Visit Advocate.com/submit to learn more about submission guidelines. We welcome your thoughts and feedback on any of our stories. Email us at voices@equalpride.com. Views expressed in Voices stories are those of the guest writers, columnists and editors, and do not directly represent the views of The Advocate or our parent company, equalpride.

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