The purpose of this presentation is to highlight the importance of preventing depression in LGBTQ youths.
This presentation will discuss social disparities facing these youths, cite reasons for depression and suggest the implementation of accessible community support services with measurable outcomes for this vulnerable population.
Depression is a major health concern facing LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer or questioning) youths age 13-20.
10.5% of high school students age 13-18 identify as LGBTQ (The Trevor Project, 2019) and 3.8% of middle school students identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual (Shields, Cohen, Glassman, Whitaker, Franks and Bertolini, 2013).
What is happening?
85% of middle and high school students who identify as LGBTQ have experienced being verbally harassed at school because of their sexual orientation, this along with fear of rejection from family members and anti-LGBT messages heard in places of worship and in the media put a strain on the mental health of LGBT teens (The Center for American Progress, 2010).
62% of LGBTQ youths experienced violence in the form of bullying by their peers either on school property or electronically. This form of violence places LGBT youths at a higher risk for depression, suicide and other at risk health behaviors (CDC, 2017).
The Centers for Disease control and Prevention (2017), also reported that 29% of LGBT youths had attempted suicide compared to only 6% of heterosexual youths.
The social disparities facing this vulnerable population are lack of social support and social interactions, exposure to media and technology, barriers to health care services related to high cost and inability to gain access to preventative services (Healthypeople.gov).
Additionally, they face suboptimal medical care due to lack of training and education on the part of the healthcare providers (Hafeez, Zeshan, Tahir, Jahan, and Naveed, 2017).
Also according to The Center for American Progress (2010) age restrictions for seeking assistance, inability to pay for treatments and transportation along with fear that primary care providers will reach out to unsupportive family members are reasons that many LGBTQ youths do not seek the assistance of primary care providers.
What can we do as a community?
Develop strong, supportive community based programs and resources, LGBTQ support groups, mental and sexual health services (Eisenberg, Mehus, Saewyc, Corliss, Gower, Sullivan and Porta, 2018).
Implement LGBT cultural competencies for community health care centers, mental health students and health care professionals (Center for American Progress, 2010).
What can we do in schools?
Institute a zero tolerance bullying or harassment and educate students about mutual respect (CDC, 2017).
Develop and promote in-school student-led and organized clubs that provide a safe, welcoming and accepting school environment (CDC, 2017). GSAs or Gay/Straight Alliances allow LGBTQ youth to connect with supportive peers and adults (Eisenberg, Mehus, Saewyc, Corliss, Gower, Sullivan and Porta, 2018).
Provide gender-neutral bathrooms, visual symbols in the form of Pride flags and offering a space that is welcoming, healthier and safer are organizational factors LGBTQ youths have cited as promoting a sense of community and belonging. (Perron, Kartoz and Himelfarb, 2017).
What can we do at home?
Positive, supportive parenting practices and open conversations can help reduce the incidence of depression in LGBTQ youths (CDC, 2017).
Are we there yet?
Important to the health and wellness of LGBTQ youths is positive health care programs and services. Locally, the opening of the LGBTQ Center for Health and Wellness is the first of its kind in the area that provides comprehensive care and wellness programs in a safe and culturally competent environment available to all in the LGBTQ community regardless of ability to pay (VNACNJ, 2020).
Facilities like the LGBTQ Center for Health and Wellness will help provide evidence-based mental health treatments to the LGB community. Some examples of treatments with measurable outcomes from the Society of Clinical Psychology (2016) are;
Building supportive relationships, which helps LGB individuals build supportive families, relationships and communities and reduce avoidance which helps with confrontation of stressors to help reduce the effect on mental health.
While we have designated LGBTQ health care centers and implemented LGBTQ curriculum pilot programs in schools we have a long way to go in the prevention of depression in LGBTQ youths. In 2018 14.4% of adolescents in New Jersey alone experienced a major depressive episode (Healthy People, 2020). That percentage is way too high! We as parents, teachers and health care providers need to step up and do better for these vulnerable children.
Center for American Progress, 2010. Retrieved from
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