The Current State of the LGBTQIA+ Community’s Mental Health
LGBTQIA+ youth face various unique challenges that can cause adverse mental health effects. Here are the latest stats.
By: Ashley Laderer
Clinically Reviewed By: Don Gasparini Ph.D., M.A., CASAC
June 2, 2023
Table of Contents
It’s no secret that we’re amid a youth mental health crisis. Rates of mental health struggles in the younger population have been climbing. A group at even higher risk for mental health concerns is the LGBTQIA+ youth community –– encompassing people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, and asexual/aromantic/agender, “plus” other identities along the gender and sexuality spectrum.
Mental health is a crucial aspect of overall health and well-being. It’s especially important during the formative years of adolescence while the brain is still developing. The LGBTQIA+ community –– particularly the youth –– faces unique challenges that can significantly impact their mental health, potentially resulting in devastating consequences, both in the short term and long term.
Here’s what you need to know about the latest LGBTQIA+ mental health stats, the reasons why this population is at risk, and the importance of LGBTQIA+-affirming care.
The latest LGBTQIA+ mental health stats
The recent surveys and research surrounding this group and mental health are saddening and alarming. Take a look at the following statistics:
- 67% of LGBTQIA+ youth experience anxiety
- 54% of LGBTQIA+ youth experience depression
- 52% of LGBTQIA+ youth report overall poor mental health
- 20% of LGBTQIA+ youth use illicit substances
- 65% of LGBTQIA+ youth have reported self-harm behaviors
- 41% of LGBTQIA+ youth seriously contemplated suicide in the past year
- 14% of LGBTQIA+ youth attempted suicide in the past year
Why is the LGBTQIA+ community at higher risk for mental health struggles?
Sadly, there are numerous reasons why this community is at a higher risk for struggles such as anxiety, depression, and suicide, including:
On top of all the typical challenges faced by kids, teens, and young adults, LGBTQIA+ youth often experience a phenomenon known as minority stress, which refers to the unique stressors they encounter just because they are part of a marginalized group.
For LGBTQIA+ youth, minority stress stems from societal prejudice, discrimination, a higher risk of physical or verbal violence, and the stigma attached to their sexual orientation or gender identity. They may feel the need to hide their identity and internalize negative beliefs that unaccepting people have towards them, resulting in adverse effects on self-esteem and sense of self.
It’s like they carry extra weight on their shoulders, constantly reminding them that they are different and not fully accepted by some parts of society.
Stress surrounding identity and “coming out”
Sexual and gender identities can cause a great deal of confusion and stress for many. Understanding and accepting one’s sexual orientation or gender identity while navigating societal expectations and pressure from family and friends can be overwhelming, to say the least.
The fear of not fitting in or being judged can cause internal conflict. Those questioning their sexuality and gender may grapple with questions about identity while also fearing rejection or alienation from their friends and family. It’s a double whammy of navigating confusing self-discovery while anticipating and potentially facing backlash along the way.
Deciding whether or not to “come out” and who to “come out” to can also be a major source of stress for LGBTQIA+ youth. This period of time can be highly sensitive, and people may feel more anxious while considering the pros and cons of coming out. During this process, they may feel fear of rejection and abandonment.
Lack of support at home
Home should be a safe place for kids where they can feel loved and accepted no matter what. Sadly, this isn’t always the case for LGBTQIA+ youth. When families don’t accept their kid’s sexual orientation or gender identity, it can have devastating consequences, leading to isolation, shame, guilt, or feelings of unworthiness. For some families, lack of acceptance may mean parents living in denial that their child isn’t heterosexual. Or, they may refuse to use their kid’s desired pronouns if they are transgender or non-binary. Some cases may be even more severe, and family members may engage in verbal or physical abuse, which can cause lasting trauma.
Unfortunately, only 40% of LGBTQIA+ youth report their family is LGBTQIA+-affirming. People whose family members are not supportive and affirming of their identity are at higher risk of attempting suicide.
Bullying and harassment
LGBTQIA+ youth are at higher risk of experiencing bullying and harassment, whether in person or through online cyberbullying, especially on social media. It’s estimated that more than half of this population has been bullied, regardless of the method. LGBTQIA+ youth may live in constant fear at school –– afraid of being targeted, humiliated, or even physically harmed.
Bullying can lead to adverse mental health outcomes in and of itself, prompting feelings of loneliness, anxiety, depression, and trouble with self-esteem. Plus, research shows that LGTBQIA+ youth who are bullied are more likely to attempt suicide than those who were not bullied.
Lack of access to supportive, affirming care
Many LGBTQIA+ youth do not have access to the resources they need for their physical health, mental health, or both. This is especially relevant in more conservative states or rural areas, where there is limited access to mental health services or healthcare for people who are not heteronormative or cisgender.
The lack of LGBTQIA+-affirming healthcare options hinders LGBTQIA+ people’s ability to seek and receive appropriate care. For example, a recent survey by The Trevor Project found that 56% of LGBTQIA+ youth who wanted to receive mental health care were ultimately unable to.
Plus, as archaic as it is, “conversion therapy” still poses a threat. 10% of LGBTQIA+ youth have been threatened with conversion therapy, and 5% have actually been subjected to conversion therapy. These individuals are at an even higher risk for suicide.
The importance of LGBTQIA+-affirming care
In order for LGBTQIA+ young people’s mental health to improve, they need to get help –– and not just any help, but the right help. That’s where LGBTQIA+-affirming care comes in. This type of care affirms and validates an individual’s identity rather than trying to change it.
When it comes to therapy, working with an LGBTQIA+-affirming mental health professional can make a huge difference. These therapists recognize and affirm this community’s unique experiences, challenges, and needs. They aim to create a supportive and safe environment for LGBTQIA+ individuals to be their most authentic selves so they can comfortably explore their sexual orientation and gender identity, address concerns related to their identity, improve overall mental well-being, and address symptoms of existing mental health conditions.
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If an individual is working with a therapist who is not openly LGBTQIA+-affirming, they may be afraid to voice all of their concerns, fearing judgment or being misunderstood. However, affirming therapists are non-judgemental, knowledgeable about LGBTQIA+ issues, and truly understand the severe impact of minority stress on mental health.
Gender-affirming therapy is a more specific type of LGBTQIA+-affirming therapy, which is especially beneficial for transgender or gender-nonconforming people. In gender-affirming therapy, a therapist will affirm a trans person’s identity rather than try to get them to change who they are. They will also clearly understand how being trans can affect mental health and provide a respectful and empathetic point of view.
Overall, LGBTQIA+-affirming therapy helps LGBTQIA+ youth tackle their everyday stressors, address mental health concerns, explore relationships, build self-esteem, and feel empowered in their sexual and gender identity.
How Charlie Health can help
If you or someone you know is part of the LGBTQIA+ community and struggling with mental health, Charlie Health may be able to help.
Charlie Health aims to end the youth mental health crisis by providing more equitable access to professional care. Our virtual intensive outpatient program offers personalized services for teens, young adults, and families dealing with a wide range of mental health conditions. Plus, our therapists provide LGBTQIA+-affirming care, so members of this community will be treated with great respect and understanding while also being celebrated for their differences.
Whether you’re exploring treatment options for the first time or searching for extra support, Charlie Health provides individualized, evidence-based mental health care in a safe, supportive space for LGBTQIA+ youth.
Contact Charlie Health to learn more today.