LGBTQ+ Youth & Mental Health Issues

Researchers from the nonprofit Trevor Project found in their 2020 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, the largest ever conducted on the mental health of LGBTQ, provides some critical insights into the lives of LGBTQ youth and their risk factors for suicide.

For instance, the survey results show that as many as 40% of LGBTQ youth and more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth thought about taking their life in the past year.

According to the recently released National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2020, one in three LGBTQ youth said they had been threatened or harmed because of their sexual identity and 46% of the respondents wanted help from a mental health professional but couldn't get it in the past year.

"We know that a one-size-fits-all approach to suicide prevention does not work,” said Amit Paley, CEO and executive director of the Trevor Project in a news release. “The need for robust research, systematic data collection, and comprehensive mental health support has never been greater."

The survey, which included more than 40,000 lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (or queer) youth, also found that transgender and nonbinary youth who had their pronouns respected tried suicide at half the rate of those whose pronouns weren't respected.

As many as 68 % of the respondents had symptoms of anxiety disorder and 55 % experienced major depressive disorder. And almost half said they had harmed themselves in the previous year, including six in 10 transgender and nonbinary youth.

The survey also found that 10% of LGBTQ youth had conversion therapy, with nearly eight in 10 saying it occurred when they were under 18. However, those who had experienced conversion therapy tried suicide at more than twice the rate as those who didn't.

A significant proportion (29 %) of the young people surveyed had been kicked out or had run away from home because of their sexual identity.

Of those who tried to get mental health care, more than 40% of them reported they could not get mental health care because they were concerned about parental permission. Also, nearly 50% of transgender and nonbinary youth didn't get mental health care because they were concerned about "the LGBTQ competence of providers." The report uses "transgender and nonbinary" as an umbrella term to encompass a wide variety of gender identities.

"We have found, now year over year, that greater levels of support and acceptance is associated with dramatically lower rates of attempting suicide," said Dr. Amy Green, director of research at the Trevor Project. "This includes the powerful role of gender-affirming care and support for transgender and nonbinary youth." With support and acceptance, suicide attempts drop, the researchers noted.

This report is significant for psychologists who work with youth as it strongly suggests that not only do LGBTQ youth need mental health treatment, but they also need a system of support that helps them gain acceptance.

To see more from the Trevor Report.

Written by James Windell, MA

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