Today, the Human Rights Campaign Foundation highlighted a robust list of new resources it released throughout Mental Health Awareness Month aimed at assisting the LGBTQ community and mental health professionals who serve the LGBTQ community, especially youth. May is officially recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month, and particularly during this time of crisis these resources can be used to provide support people need.
“In a time when many people may feel that their mental health must take a backseat, we instead must lift up those who may be struggling and let them know we are there to support them,” said HRC President Alphonso David. Remaining at home does not mean you have to remain isolated, with an abundance of resources and opportunity to build community available online. No one person’s challenges are the same as another’s, but collectively we can end the stigma around mental health and create real change for the LGBTQ community.”
Studies show that LGBTQ people are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, lowered self-esteem and even suicidal thoughts compared to their straight and cisgender peers. These statistics are even higher for members of the bisexual+ and transgender community. HRC has also seen how LGBTQ youth are especially at risk of struggling with mental health given stressors such as unsupportive families, hostile school conditions, bullying from peers and a lack of adequate resources. To be clear -- mental health disparities for LGBTQ have nothing to do with being LGBTQ and everything to do with how society treats the community.
To support and empower the LGBTQ community, the HRC Foundation released the following resources:
- HRC released a research brief that provides information about the risk that LGBTQ children and youth, of which there are at least 2 million in the United States alone, will face amidst COVID-19, as well as resources available to them as they navigate these times. As the economic and health consequences of COVID-19 become reality to families across the globe, the increased risk of child abuse has especially garnered the attention of the media as well as leading national professional associations such as the American Psychological Association.
- During this time, school counselors can play a vital role in the lives of LGBTQ students. HRC, in partnership with the American School Counseling Association, released a tip sheet for school counselors on how they can support LGBTQ students and mitigate some of the emerging challenges they face while social distancing. This new resource provides actionable steps, recommendations and important considerations for school counselors to use when working with LGBTQ students in virtual settings.
- LGBTQ students are facing unique challenges as they lose access to affirming peers and educators during the COVID-19 pandemic. This loss of access can create additional stress on students who are not open about their LGBTQ identity at home or who live with unsupportive family members. In response, HRC Foundation teamed up with the National Education Association to create an educator checklist to support LGBTQ students during distance learning.
- The HRC Foundation released a pair of resources to help parents and other family members promote the emotional well-being of their children. The resources include a video conversation between Ellen Kahn, HRC’s senior director of programs and partnerships, and Dr. Scott Leibowitz, child and adolescent psychiatrist, where they discuss the many ways in which parents, guardians and other family and community members can support transgender and gender-expansive young people and their mental health while at home. HRC Foundation also produced an accompanying tip sheet, providing information for parents on how they can help their children maintain and manage their mental health during COVID-19.
- In an effort to continue providing primary care, many health care providers, including mental health providers, are now offering virtual visits using technology to connect with their patients. HRC Foundation released a telemedicine FAQ entitled, “Telemedicine and COVID-19: Frequently Asked Questions” and a video of a conversation between Diane Bruessow, PA, and Ellen Kahn that provides a brief overview of telemedicine and more information about its utility.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated mental health issues for many in our community, especially for those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic including communities of color and people living with HIV/AIDS. Stay-at-home orders have forced college students to return to homes that can be unwelcoming of their authentic selves. Gender-affirming surgeries have been put on hold for many patients. Economic turmoil is disproportionately affecting the very livelihood of LGBTQ people nationwide. Even as LGBTQ people work to survive -- let alone exist -- during this crisis, our own government is attempting to roll back health care protections for the most vulnerable in our community.
In spite of these challenges, HRC is committed to supporting LGBTQ people, and it will continue to work with our partners in office, across movements and around the world to affirm, uplift and demand action on behalf of the LGBTQ community.