People and Culture
Putting a spotlight on the Mental Health Needs of LGBTQ+ Youth
Stories@Gilead - June 29, 2023 - 5 min read
Across the country, LGBTQ+ youth face challenges that are negatively affecting their mental health. Some find themselves not feeling accepted by their family or friends, or being verbally harassed at school. Many are affected by a slew of new bills that regulate everything from what bathrooms individuals can use to whether people have access to gender-affirming healthcare.
“The current social environment and political landscape are taking a toll on the mental health of LGBTQ+ young people,” says Dr. Myeshia Price (she/they), Director of Research Science at The Trevor Project. “This is a serious cause for concern, and these issues aren’t going anywhere until we actively take steps to identify and address them.”
But just how difficult things are for LGBTQ+ youth isn’t always easy to quantify. The Trevor Project, the leading suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ+ young people in the United States and a Gilead Foundation grantee, has led the charge in identifying exactly where young people need help. In the organization’s thorough and widely distributed national surveys, tens of thousands of young people across the United States are asked up to 150 questions about their mental health and lived experiences.
The Trevor Project Data
This year, The Trevor Project surveyed more than 28,000 people ages 13-24 for its 2023 U.S. National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People, and uncovered some difficult truths: 41% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered suicide in the past year, 56% stated they couldn’t access mental healthcare and more than 60% said their homes weren’t affirming of their gender and sexuality.
There are nuances to the data as well. For example, youth who are transgender or nonbinary and/or people of color reported higher rates of suicidal ideation. Capturing the complexities of this information is something Myeshia sees as a personal mission.
“As a Black queer person, I’ve always been interested in conducting research that illustrates and uplifts intersectionality, and really examining people’s experiences in relation to the multiple identities that they hold,” explains Myeshia. “Our experiences and needs can vary dramatically depending on our sexual orientation, gender identity, race/ethnicity, ability and a combination of all of these intersecting identities.”
Accurately capturing the experiences of LGBTQ+ people is one challenge, but addressing them is another. The Trevor Project offers free, 24/7 crisis services via phone, chat and text, and runs TrevorSpace, a safe space social networking site where LGBTQ+ youth can find peer-to-peer support. The latter is particularly important. “Our research over the years has consistently found that when LGBTQ+ young people have access to affirming spaces, their odds of suicide risk can lower significantly,” says Myeshia. With the rise in social media, online resources can be particularly helpful for those living in places without a safe in-person community.
Born This Way Foundation Kindness Efforts
The Trevor Project isn’t alone in addressing the urgent and unmet mental health needs of youth. Among the organizations doing work in this area for young people and LGBTQ+ youth specifically is Born This Way Foundation, a Gilead grantee launched by Lady Gaga and her mom, Cynthia Germanotta. Through its recently published research study, Kind Communities: Perspectives from LGBTQ+ Young People, the organization shares direct insights from LGBTQ+ youth and assesses how communities have been perceiving and experiencing kindness, taking into account the specific challenges LGBTQ+ youth currently face across the United States.
“Throughout our parenting journey, my husband and I always made an effort to listen and engage in conversations about our daughters' emotions. However, we realized that at times, we struggled to provide the best support or direct them to the right resources,” says Cynthia. “Driven by our dedication to supporting young individuals, our foundation strives to make kindness cool, validate emotions and eliminate the stigma surrounding mental health.”
Born This Way Foundation uses its research and mission to produce a number of programs, including Channel Kindness, a digital platform where young people can find and share stories, take action and bring kindness into their daily lives; the Be There Certificate, a free, online course to help young people learn how to support one another’s’ mental health; and #BeKind365, a daily pledge encouraging acts of kindness to oneself, loved ones, community and planet every day from any location.
Despite the many challenges young people face, the worrying mental health statistics, and the rise of anti-trans legislation, Cynthia is hopeful for the future.
“I’m constantly in awe of this generation of young people we work with every day who motivate us to work toward the kinder and braver world they envision and deserve,” says Cynthia. “With each step forward, we’re acutely aware that we are shaping a movement that will leave a lasting legacy.”
Myeshia also notes that the work is tough, but like Cynthia, she draws motivation from those she works to protect. “I continue to be inspired by the ways that LGBTQ+ young people fight back. Their fight gives me a lot of hope, even in these challenging times. Our mission to end suicide among LGBTQ+ young people is a daunting one, and we can’t do it alone.”
Photo: Pictured from left to right are Cynthia Germanotta and Dr. Myeshia Price.