As the number of COVID-19 cases in the United States rockets past 21 million, causing widespread pain in lives lost and economic devastation, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) youth face particular hardships threatening their lives, mental health, and social development.
In particular, social isolation may be especially challenging for LGBTQ youth. They may be quarantining with rejecting family-members and losing contact with supportive social networks. The nature of quarantining means these problems are invisible to the public.
Aiden, a 16-year-old transgender boy, lives in a community particularly hard-hit by COVID-19. Aiden’s parents refuse to accept his gender identity, call him by his male name, or use male pronouns. They frequently yell at Aiden to dress and act like a girl, assigning dishwashing and laundry chores to him alone—and not to his brother—to get him “used to doing girl stuff like you are supposed to.”
Due to serial COVID-19 outbreaks at Aiden’s school, he is forced into learning remotely. His family has only 1 computer, shared by the 2 siblings for schoolwork and Aiden’s mother for church meetings. Aiden is banned from using social media or communicating with friends because his parents believe “that’s where she picked up all this nonsense.” Aiden has become totally disconnected from his friends. He is also cut off from affirming and supportive teachers. As tensions in Aiden’s family escalate, fighting becomes the only interaction between him and his parents.
Even before COVID-19, LGBTQ youth were at higher risk for depression, suicidality, and tobacco, alcohol, and other drug use.1 Moreover, this increased risk stems from increased rates of rejection, discrimination, and victimization. During a pandemic, risk is further compounded by loss of relationships in school, clubs, or other community venues where LGBTQ youth find support and affirmation. Laura Erickson-Schroth, MD, MA at the New York City-based LGBTQ youth organization, Hetrick-Martin Institute, reports youth members are asking for more frequent counseling sessions. They have made at least a third more requests for initial psychiatry visits during 2020 than during the same period in 2019.
Read the rest of the article on Psychiatric Times here.
If you are dealing with health issues related to the Covid-19 pandemic, please visit my page on helping the LGBTQ+ community and options for LGBTQ+ Therapy in NYC.