For many families and kids, being stuck at home is just part of our “new normal” during the coronavirus pandemic. For others, it can feel like punishment – especially for those who live with family members that do not share or accept their personal beliefs or ways of life. Such is the case for many LGTBQ+ youth in the U.S. Isolated from friends and a community that loves them for who they are, many of these kids have had to quarantine with unsupportive family members.
For this demographic, sheltering in place and staying at home can lead to depression, anxiety, hopelessness, and even thoughts of suicide. Take a moment to check in on the mental health of LGTBQ+ teens and young adults as the pandemic rages on.
The Trevor Project, a non-profit organization that focuses on and promotes the welfare of LGTBQ+ youth, recently released a survey on the mental health of this group.
The “National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2020” shows that many young people are having trouble being quarantined at home. It represents the experiences of over 40,000 young people ages 13-24 across the United States and is considered the largest survey of LGBTQ+ youth mental health ever performed.
The survey was conducted back in March when the pandemic was just reaching its peak. At the time, many LGBTQ+ youth had to decide where they were going to live and whether they were going to move back in with their parents, even if they did not approve of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Some chose to go back into “the closet” after years of being themselves.
One of the biggest headlines from the study was that 40% of LGBTQ+ respondents said they seriously considered attempting suicide in the past twelve months, with more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth having seriously considered suicide.
Other highlights include:
- 68% of LGBTQ+ youth reported symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder in the past two weeks, including more than 3 in 4 transgender and nonbinary youth.
- 48% of LGBTQ youth reported engaging in self-harm in the past twelve months, including over 60% of transgender and nonbinary youth.
- 46% of LGBTQ youth report they wanted psychological or emotional counseling from a mental health professional but were unable to receive it in the past 12 months.
- 29% of LGBTQ youth have experienced homelessness, been kicked out, or run away.
As we can see, transgender and non-binary youth tend to be more susceptible to negative health effects, homelessness, and suicide.
For some youth, the pandemic means experiencing bullying, taunting, and abuse at home while sheltering in place. Staying under the same roof can lead to dramatic confrontations, especially if their parent or guardian does not know they identify as LGBTQ+.
For other members of the community, the pandemic means going without their chosen families, who are usually friends, romantic partners, and allies of the community. These groups may be used to meeting out in public, but recent events have made it much harder to stay connected. Zoom, Skype, and Facetime can only do so much to relieve this sense of isolation.
What Can You Do to Help: Who to Contact
The Trevor Project is here to help LGBTQ+ young people in need during the pandemic. They provide 24/7 free crisis counselling and suicide prevention to this demographic. You or your patients can reach them at 1-866-488-7386 or visit their website for more information. Youth are free to chat, text, or instant message with the responder. The responding crisis counsellors have been trained on how to handle a variety of issues, including how it feels to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community. They connect callers to housing, food, safe spaces for queer individuals, and other essential services.
Q Chat Space is another helpful online tool. It connects LGBTQ+ youth to other members of this community, including crisis counselors and peer support groups.
Transgender youth can also contact the Trans Lifeline Hotline at 877-565-8860 for more assistance and support. They will be connected to a member of the transgender community.
If one of your patients is thinking of running away from home or looking for another place to shelter, you can contact the National Runaway Safeline at 1-800-RUNAWAY for advice and support. The LGBT National Help Center also provides online and over-the-phone support. Individuals can access queer-friendly chat rooms or call the Youth Talkline at 800-246-7743.
The study from the Trevor Project also shows that having a loving, supportive home can make all the difference. Encouraging parents and guardians to accept their children for who they are can reduce rates of depression, anxiety, and thoughts of suicide.
In some cases, this may be an opportunity to open a dialogue between parents and their kids. The Trevor Project study also shows that the risk of suicide dramatically decreases for transgender youth when their cohabitants use their preferred pronoun. Consider directing your patients to family counsellors that can help with this uneasy transition.
LGBTQ+ youth may have more trouble sheltering in place than their heterosexual counterparts. Use these resources to keep your patients safe until the pandemic comes to an end.