A comprehensive online survey released this week shows a troubling gap between the counseling needs of LGBTQ teenagers and the provision of supportive services. The survey of more than 12,000 LGBTQ youths sheds light on the factors that contribute to higher rates of substance use, depression and anxiety in this population.
“In many cases, the cards remain stacked against LGBTQ-identified youth in terms of acceptance and support from their families, their mental health and safety in schools,” states the report for the 2017 Youth Survey conducted by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the University of Connecticut.
Among the survey's findings, 77% of the surveyed youths ages 13 to 17 reported feeling down or depressed in the past week, and more than 70% reported past-week feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness. But only 41% reported receiving psychological or emotional counseling to address such issues in the past 12 months, and that number was even lower for minority LGBTQ youths.
“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,” the report states.
Signs of hope
The survey did report some positive trends that organizers said point to the resilience of a group of young people who often face discrimination in school, at home and among government leaders. A total of 91% of the surveyed youths reported feeling pride in being an LGBTQ person, for example.
In addition, around 60% of LGBTQ students have access to a student club representing their community; the presence of such an organization can improve these youths' perception of their school experience and can counteract any hostility they encounter elsewhere in their lives.
The survey, which follows up on the groundbreaking Growing Up LGBT in America report that the Human Rights Campaign released in 2012, points to numerous ongoing challenges that LGBTQ youths encounter, however. These include:
Everyday stress, with 85% of the surveyed youths rating their stress level as 5 or higher on a 10-point scale.
The threat of sexual violence, with 11% of youths reporting that they had been sexually attacked as a result of their actual or assumed sexual identity.
Issues confronting transgender youth, with only 3 in 10 transgender students saying they can express themselves in a way that completely reflects their gender identity in school.
The report's authors state that supportive families and inclusive schools are crucial to the success and well-being of LGBTQ young people. They also advise behavioral health and medical professionals to support the population in these ways:
Being open to discussing sexual orientation and gender identity.
Seeking additional training to increase proficiency in LGBTQ issues.
Being an advocate for LGBTQ youth at all levels of health care.
Providing educational resources for teachers, parents and students.
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