Teenagers are especially vulnerable to mental health problems, and when it comes to those who within the LGBT community, that vulnerability is even greater. LGBT mental health statistics make sobering reading and the numbers say volumes about our most vulnerable teenagers.
Recent surveys have shown that those who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender are more likely to have a mental health problem when compared to heterosexuals. This is because of many different factors, including inequalities and discrimination. While there is a lot more acceptance of LGBT people these days, there is still a need for more impactful practices and policies to combat the disadvantages and inequalities that LGBT people face.
LGBT Mental Health – A Growing Concern
There is evidence to show that those who identify as LGBT have a much greater risk of mental health problems including self-harm, addiction, suicidal thoughts, and depression. Research is ongoing into why there is such a high prevalence among teens in this community, but it’s believed that isolation, homophobia, and discrimination all have a role to play. Many LGBT people feel that mental health services are discriminatory towards them and become dissatisfied with the healthcare they receive.
Hate Crime – Contributing To Mental Health Problems
LGBT community members are also at a higher risk of becoming victims of a hate crime when compared with heterosexuals. Teenagers are especially at risk in this respect, particularly those from ethnic minority or black groups. It’s no wonder, then, that members of LGBT communities are reporting to have a lower quality of life than heterosexual people. When faced with these kinds of problems, it is easy to see why so many LGBT people develop mental health disorders including anxiety and depression. Self-harm can also be an issue amongst those who feel as if they are unaccepted by their communities or friends.
Depression In The LGBT Community
In the USA today, depression is the most commonly diagnosed mental health disorder, affecting over 15 million adults and almost 3 million teenagers. The rates are proportionally higher among the LGBT community, with LGBT youths reporting a higher level of addiction and depression. Suicide is currently the third most prevalent cause of death in people aged 10 – 24 in the USA and gay, lesbian and bisexual teens from grade 7 to grade 8 are twice as likely to try to commit suicide than heterosexual peers.
LGBT Mental Health In School
Going through adolescence is difficult for everyone, however, for those who identify as lesbian, gay, transgender, or bisexual it can be even harder. There are lots of cultural stigmas and negative attitudes in schools which put LGBT youths at a much higher risk of physical violence, teasing and bullying.
Recent studies have reported that 55% of LGBT teenagers felt unsafe in their school specifically because of their sexual orientation. 37% felt unsafe due to their gender identification. 74% reported verbal harassment, with 16% admitting to having been physically assaulted – either kicked, punched or injured with some form of weapon – simply due to their sexual orientation.
It goes without saying that studying in a hostile environment won’t just have a negative impact on the student’s academic performance. It will also affect their mental well-being.
LGBT Mental Health At Home
Unfortunately, for many gay, bisexual, transgender and lesbian teens, their challenges don’t end when they go home after school. The way in which parents and family members respond to LGBT teens has a major impact on mental health. A surprising number of parents, even today, have a negative reaction when their child comes out, and some even throw their child out of their home. Some LGBT teens feel as if they have no option but to run away because of the stress and conflict in their home life. This puts LGBT teens at a greater risk of becoming homeless – another major factor in mental health problems. 40% of homeless teenagers are from the LGBT community, and being homeless only increases the risk of victimization, discrimination and the associated mental health problems that come along with it.
Key Statistics About LGBT Mental Health
Here are some key statistics about LGBT mental health that will clearly demonstrate just how great the problem really is amongst this community.
96.6% of US adults identify as straight, with 1.6% identifying as lesbian or gay, 0.7% identifying as bisexual and the rest identifying as “something else”. Of those individuals, discrimination, societal stigma, and denial of human and civil rights contributes to a high rate of suicide, substance abuse, and psychiatric disorders. Those who find that their gender identity or sexual orientation isn’t accepted by the families and communities also have poor mental health.
Over a fifth of all LGBT individuals don’t tell their healthcare professional or doctor about their sexual orientation. Almost 30% of those identifying as transgender postpone or avoid medical treatment when injured or sick because of disrespect and discrimination. More than 30% delay or avoid getting preventative care for the same reasons. Around 8% of those identifying as lesbian, gay or bisexual and 27% of those identifying as transgender have, at some point, been denied essential healthcare.
Prevalence of LGBT Mental Health Disorders
When compared to those identifying as straight, individuals identifying as LGBT has a three times greater chance of being diagnosed with a mental health disorder. Up to 65% of those identifying as transgender have suicidal ideation and up to 30% abuse substances such as drugs or alcohol – a much higher figure than the 9% of the generation population. They are also more than twice as likely to experience anxiety and depression.
Insurance And Access Issues
In surveys amongst the LGBT community, over 50% of respondents report they’ve experienced healthcare providers denying care completely, using inappropriate language or even putting blame on the patient for their illness, saying that their gender identity or sexual orientation was the cause. In the past, this problem was so widespread that the Joint Commission which certifies and accredits over 20,000 healthcare programs and organizations in the USA had to put in place a requirement in 2011 that hospitals had to prohibit any discrimination due to gender expression, gender identity or sexual orientation if they were to be given accreditation.
When it comes to accessing mental healthcare, LGBT teens often report facing stigma, poor cultural sensitivity and either a conscious or reluctance to address their sexuality. This, clearly, hampers the effectiveness of the care that they receive. Evidence has shown that some healthcare providers have an implicit preference for heterosexual patients and this results in an unsupportive environment in which LGBT teenagers are treated. This is an even more severe problem when we bear in mind that keeping sexuality hidden from others puts patients at an even high risk of suffering from psychological distress. Hiding sexual or gender identity also prevents LGBT teens from being able to access the most appropriate group-based mental health coping resources which can help to provide a buffer against stigma’s most negative effects.
Getting Support For LGBT Mental Health Problems
For any teen with mental health problems, getting the right support during adolescence is vital to prevent the issues from getting out of control. LGBT youths particularly need extra support on this front, both at home and in school. A safe and comfortable environment must be found in which LGBT teenagers with mental health disorders can feel physically, emotionally and socially supported.
Although many schools still lack the necessary resources to help and support LGBT teenagers, there has been a positive change in school attitudes towards LGBT teens over the last few years. Schools are now beginning to implement policies against harassment and discrimination of LGBT students and to set up student clubs and support groups within the school environment. LGBT topics are sometimes now being included in the curriculum and staff are receiving more training about how to be supportive.
At home, parents must be happy to openly discuss mental health problems with their LGBT teens. They must talk and listen, offering support and proactive advice.
Essentially, LGBT teenagers with mental health disorders must remember they aren’t alone. If they are struggling to find someone at home or school to offer the necessary support, they can turn to one of the national helplines or online resources which can help them to face the challenges that they are experiencing.
Some teens in the LGBT community find it very difficult to accept their sexual orientation or gender identity. Struggling to come to terms with this is something which many young people go through alone, and it is also something which contributes to and exacerbates existing mental health problems.
Seeking help to achieve greater self-acceptance is very important. While it isn’t easy to get help with these issues, finding the right therapist can make an enormous difference to your mental well-being. Sourcing a therapist who specializes in dealing with LGBT issues is often the best course of action. They will be able to help deal with a range of specific issues including:
- Learning how to accept your gender identity or sexual orientation
- Learning ways in which to cope in a healthy way with the reactions of others
- Finding ways to cope with the process of transitioning
- Dealing with low self-esteem and a lack of self-confidence
- Finding healthier alternatives to suicidal thoughts or self-harming behaviors
- Dealing with depression due to discrimination and bullying in the long-term
- Coping with rejection or hostility from community members, friends or family
- Deal with fear of violence
There are many types of talking therapy and finding one that works for you can make an enormous difference to your mental health. Being able to discuss your feelings and emotions in a safe and supportive environment is highly beneficial, and having an understanding mental health professional who has a supportive attitude and who can offer valuable insights and advice will help you to learn greater resilience and new coping mechanisms to overcome many of the challenges you face.
When Should I Seek Help?
If you are worried about LGBT mental health issues, it’s important not to suffer on your own. Your mental health problems won’t go away and will only worsen over time without the right help. It’s important to seek out the right supportive professional as soon as possible. However, if you’ve already been suffering for some time, don’t worry. It is never too late to get the help you need, however small or large your problem may seem.
If you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms, it’s time to talk to someone about the way you’re feeling:
- Lethargy, tiredness an a lack of motivation
- Feeling tearful
- Feeling socially isolated or unwilling to leave the house
- A loss of interest in activities you previously enjoyed
- Using drugs or alcohol to cope with the feelings or emotions you’re experiencing
- Harming yourself or thinking about harming yourself
- Having thoughts about suicide
Who Is Able To Help?
It’s important to find someone you can trust to talk to about your problems. This may be a supportive family member or friend who can show you the understanding you need. If you feel as though you aren’t going to be accepted by those around you, you may be able to speak to a school counselor or your doctor. Alternatively, you could find a support group online, a local support group in your area, a telephone helpline or a counselor who specializes in LGBT mental health. You should never try to cope alone.
Helping Vulnerable Teens With LGBT Mental Health Conditions
Although it has been demonstrated that young people in the LGBT community are at a higher risk of mental health disorders, it’s important to be aware that there is help out there. Finding the right support at as early a stage as possible is the best way to ensure a good outcome and the earliest start on the road to recovery. Luckily, attitudes in the country are changing towards those who identify as LGBT, but taking steps to ensure positive mental health is still essential for gay, bisexual, lesbian and transgender teenagers facing challenges today.
If you’re looking for therapy to help your teenaged child deal with mental health issues because of their sexuality (or other people’s reactions to it), contact Hillcrest in order to find out if our facility is right for you!