May is Mental Health Awareness Month, an important opportunity to encourage young people -- especially LGBTQ youth -- to speak openly and honestly about their mental health.

HRC Foundation and the University of Connecticut’s 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report reaffirmed that, sadly, mental health disparities between LGBTQ youth and non-LGBTQ youth continue to widen, an alarming trend that we must work together to address.

Today’s LGBTQ youth continue to face a variety of stressors—harassment, family and peer rejection, bullying from their peers, isolation and a lack of a sense of belonging—that have a major impact on their overall well-being.

Studies have shown that, compared to their non-LGBTQ peers, LGBTQ youth report much higher rates of depression, anxiety, alcohol and drug use, and lowered self-esteem. And for bisexual and gender-expansive youth, as well as young people living at the intersections of multiple marginalized identities, those numbers are even higher.

According to HRC and the University of Connecticut’s research:

  • More than three-fourths of bisexual, queer, pansexual and fluid-identified youth said they "usually" felt feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness over the past week;
  • Eighty-one percent of bisexual respondents said they “usually” felt down or depressed over the past week compared to 71% of lesbian and gay youth;
  • Only 16% of gender-expansive youth always feel safe at school;
  • Ninety-seven percent of gender-expansive youth said they have trouble sleeping at night;
  • Four in five LGBTQ youth of color have personally experienced racism;
  • Just 11% of youth of color surveyed believe their racial or ethnic group is regarded positively in the U.S.

Eighty-five percent of those surveyed by HRC rated their average stress level a ‘5’ or higher on a scale of 10 where ‘10’ was very stressed and ‘1’ was not stressed. This includes 14% of respondents who rated their average stress level as a ‘9’ or higher.

Access to culturally competent, LGBTQ-affirming mental health providers both within schools and in the broader health care system is essential to the well-being of LGBTQ teens. Every mental health and medical professional can play a role in changing the landscape for LGBTQ youth by reinforcing inclusive, supportive and loving environments in homes, schools and communities.

We must use Mental Health Awareness Month as a catalyst to start having open, honest discussions about mental health with young people, a key step to reducing stigma and empowering them to seek help and support when needed. And we must continue to chip away at the bias, discrimination and rejection that place LGBTQ youth at high risk of compromised mental health.

If you or someone you know are in need of help or assistance, contact The Trevor Project, which runs phone and text chat support lines specifically for LGBTQ youth.


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