Mental Health Issues in LGBT Youth
When it comes to mental health issues, LGBT youth suffers more than their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts. For many young people in the LGBT community, this is still a period of self-discovery and self-acceptance – both of which can be severely harmed by rejection and opposition.
Among the main causes of LGBT mental health issues are societal oppression and discrimination. LGBT young people are more than twice as likely to feel suicidal, and over four times as likely to attempt suicide when compared to heterosexual and cisgender youth.
Although intolerant behaviour against members of this community is also detrimental to families and organisations. The most pressing concern should be about caring for the mental health of this community.
Understanding the mental health issues that LGBT youth face and how it affects them is vital in providing timely treatment and a healthy recovery. We’ll be covering what these issues are, how prevalent they are in LGBT youth, the factors that lead to them, and how members and non-members of the community can help.
How prevalent are mental health issues in LGBT youth?
The answer is very prevalent. Because of the open, constant opposition and discrimination they face – both in-person and online – young people within LGBT communities are more likely to struggle with their mental health. If their mental wellbeing isn’t willingly being cared for, someone close to them should take the reins.
Before we dive further into helpful resources, we’ll go over a few common mental health issues affecting this community.
What are common mental health issues in LGBT youth?
Recent research suggests LGBT adults and adolescents experience higher rates of eating disorders than the heterosexual and cisgender community. The researchers believe that these prevalent unhealthy eating habits stem from the chronic stress of living as a minority, as well as a dissatisfaction with body image.
A study from Pew Research Centre regarding LGBT social acceptance says that an estimated 9 in 10 LGBT adults say that “society is more accepting of them today than it was 10 years ago”. However, that doesn’t cancel the rejection they’ve suffered throughout their early years. This is a big contributor to the self-esteem issues they may suffer with.
LGBT youth are also more susceptible to developing a distortion in self-concept. This is derived from the judgemental environment they’re often inserted in.
The community experiences higher rates of cigarette, alcohol, and marijuana use. They’re also more likely to try harder drugs such as cocaine, methamphetamine and opioids. This rate is more than two times higher in LGBT youth than in heterosexual and cisgender youth.
This increased substance use can be due to coexisting disorders like depression and anxiety – both of which have roots in frequent discrimination.
Transgender youth are almost four times more likely than their non-transgender peers to experience depression. In particular, LGBT teens experience significantly more depression symptoms when compared to their non-LGBT counterparts.
What’s more, over 2 in 3 transgender and nonbinary youth have reported having symptoms of major depressive disorder.
Members of the LGBT youth community were 1.75 times more likely to experience symptoms of depression and anxiety than their peers.
This can be explained by the high expectations from a judgmental society. After years of harassment, unwanted internalised concepts may cause them to have trouble accepting themselves. Feeling welcomed by people they admire can counter this.
Non-suicidal self injuries are also more striking in LGBT youth. That’s noticeable when we become aware of an estimated 10% to 20% of heterosexual teens engaged in self-harming behaviours. This is in contrast with a whopping 38% to 53% of LGBT teens.
Self-harm is a form of self-punishment, and an unhealthy way of coping with emotional turmoil.
30.3% of LGBT people reported they had attempted suicide in their lifetime in this report. Young adults were experience sky-high levels of anxiety, depression, and psychological distress. This could result in potential suicidal ideations.
Factors affecting mental health issues in LGBT youth
Societal and political acceptance
Currently, 71 jurisdictions criminalise private, consensual, same-sex sexual activity in the USA.
Although the LGBT population feels like it has gained more representation in the past decade, there’s still a long way to go in terms of acceptance. The fact that the LGBT community is often seen as deviant and “sinful” in 43 countries is dangerous to the youth’s mental wellbeing, self-acceptance, and self-concept.
Homophobia and slurs in the school environment
Almost all LGBT high school students hear homophobic language at school, even in 2021. This alone explains a lot of the harmful behaviours and mental health issues they may develop in later years.
Children and youth who are bullied are more likely than those not bullied to suffer from depression, anxiety, and low self-esteem later in life. For this reason, school environments, programs, and policies should do a better job of providing better accommodation of the needs of LGBT youth.
Family rejection of LGBT young people has been linked to negative physical and mental health outcomes.
Although family is supposed to be a solid foundation of trust and acceptance, this is oftne not the case for LGBT youth. The words, actions, and beliefs of a non-accepting family can be detrimental to the developing mental health of a young person. They can also contribute to internalised concepts of homophobia, leading to self-hatred and unhealthy coping mechanisms.
What support services are available for mental health issues in LGBT youth?
No member of the LGBT community should fight their mental health battles alone.
There are various support services available to help young LGBT people with their mental health issues, whatever they may be. If you or someone you know is struggling, we’ve put together a list of mental health organisations you can get in touch with to receive instant support.
How can a Youth Mental Health First Aid Course help?
As you already know, LGBT youth suffer higher rates of discrimination than their peers. Especially because it can be a self-discovery period for them, the constant harassment and bullying can scar them throughout their youth into their adult life.
If you’re interested in helping young LGBT people with their mental health issues, the Youth Mental Health First Aid course can help. Online or in-person, this course teaches participants how to spot early signs of a mental health problem in a young person, even if they’re subtle. Next, it shows you the best way to handle it in any situation.
LGBT people with mental health issues may be suffering a great deal. They may not be able to reach out for help. In this case, a peer, family member, or partner’s skills and understanding are vital. The course will provide you with all the necessary tools and knowledge to help them through a healthy recovery.
Enrol in a Youth Mental Health First Aid course today
If you care about the mental struggles of a LGBT family member, friend, or partner, you may be wondering what you can do to help them. How should you approach them? What should you say? Do they need an intervention? If so, how do I arrange that? These questions can often be paralysing, and stop people from taking necessary actions right away.
The surest path to ensuring they get the help they need is to learn about the signs of poor youth mental health, as well as the right action steps to take at the right times. Taking action today could save a life tomorrow. Go to our enrolment page to see how you can help.
For more information about what we do at The Mental Health Coach, check out our home page.