To say that the past year has been challenging is an understatement. The pandemic completely uprooted people’s lives and left many grappling with more fear and uncertainty than ever before—bringing conversations around mental health to the national stage. Yet, marginalized groups who have long faced disparities in the mental healthcare system like LGBTQ youth —especially those who are transgender and people of color—are still too often left out of the conversation.
It was recently reported that overall suicides in the U.S. declined in 2020, but preliminary studies suggest these rates may have actually increased among people of color. LGBTQ youth also face disparities in mental health outcomes. According to new research from The Trevor Project, from the suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth that I lead, 42% of LGBTQ youth, including more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth, seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, and that percentage only increases for youth of color. Yet, nearly half of all LGBTQ youth could not access the mental health care they desired.
There are very real, tangible steps we can take to end the mental health crisis among LGBTQ youth, but in order to get there, we need to implement stronger, intersectional data collection and use it as a basis to spark structural change across our mental healthcare system.
How can we identify and meet the needs of LGBTQ youth if we don’t have data that illuminates the true state of their mental health and suicide risk? The fact is very little research exists on LGBTQ youth, and the research that does exist has historically conflated all LGBTQ people, examining their experiences as one homogenous group. By taking an intersectional approach to data collection and uncoupling various groups within the community we can see data in a more meaningful and productive way. This ultimately helps us better understand the distinct experiences of LGBTQ people with different backgrounds, sexual orientations, gender identities, cultures, races, and ethnicities.
Read the rest of the article on Time here.
If you are dealing with health issues related to any of the topics discussed in this article please visit my page on helping the LGBTQ+ community and options for LGBTQ+ Therapy in NYC.