Compared to their non-LGBTQ+ peers, youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning (LGBTQ+) face several mental health challenges and a higher risk of suicide.
Additionally, they are more susceptible to a wide range of stressful events like bullying, discrimination, familial rejection, prejudice, and even peer violence, all of which increase one’s propensity towards suicide. As a result, it’s critical to understand what causes the gaps in mental health, risky sexual behaviour, and substance use that LGBTQ+ kids experience, as well as how to address them using a tailored strategy that combines prevention tactics, sensible laws, and community initiatives.
In order to strengthen protective factors assisting LGBTQ+ youth in overcoming these challenges, this review by Samskruthi Madireddy of John Hopkins University and Sahithi Madireddy of Massachusetts University focuses on concrete actions that can be taken within schools, families, communities, and healthcare settings. It focuses on developing spaces for LGBTQ+ youth, raising the level of support and acceptance in families, schools, and healthcare settings, and lowering incidents of victimisation and stigma based on gender identity and sexual orientation. Such prevention strategies and interventions are particularly envisioned.
LGBTQ+ youth are four times more likely to contemplate suicide
Even though suicide is the second leading cause of mortality for young people overall, LGBTQ+ kids are four times more likely to consider suicide than their non-LGBTQ+ peers. When LGBTQ+ youth are valued, embraced, encouraged, and given a sense of importance within their educational institutions and communities, they can reach their full potential.
To attain this objective, it is important to focus advocacy and education on promulgating positive social and academic development for these youth while eradicating biases and discrimination based on gender and sexuality. This study specifically considers peer support, school support, family support, policymaker support, and community support from peers as potential protective variables that can help LGBTQ+ kids cope with these problems.
LGBTQ+ youth Mental Health Disorders
There is strong evidence that homophobia, heterosexism, transphobia, and biphobia put LGBTQ+ adolescents at higher risk of developing mental diseases such as post-traumatic stress disorder, depression, and anxiety. Additionally, various behavioural health inequities among LGBTQ+ kids have been linked to impaired mental health as a predictor.
Suicide According to research, young people who identify as sexual minorities are 3.5 times more likely than their heterosexual peers to have attempted suicide. Another study with 137 bisexual and gay men aged 14 to 21 found that over 50% of this group had made multiple suicide attempts.
This unsettling trend highlights the requirement for creating LGBTQ+-specific suicide prevention treatments.
Risk Factors Victimisation, oppression based on sexual orientation, psychological distress brought on by stigma and prejudice, rejection from parents and family, inability to cope socially, unpleasant interpersonal interactions, bullying at school, suicidality, homelessness, and violence in the community are some of the most significant risk factors that cause depression.
This dilemma is made worse by the fact that, frequently, due to feelings of insecurity or fear, many classmates and teachers are reluctant to offer their support to LGBTQ+ youth.
Victimization and Bullying LGBTQ+ populations frequently experience victimisation and prejudice because of their sexual orientation and gender identity. Identity/Sexuality Issues The need to hide one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity can seriously harm one’s psychological health. On the other hand, disclosing one’s sexual orientation is connected to various health benefits like better relationships, reduced stress, and enhanced well-being.
Psychological Distress An uncomfortable emotional condition of psychological (cognitive, behavioural, affective) and emotional discomfort known as psychological distress can make it difficult to function normally in daily life.
Stigma Stigma, which is defined as the marginalization, tagging, and stereotyping of a specific social group, is a significant factor in the health disparities that LGBTQ+ people experience. For these young people, discrimination based on their sexual orientation, gender expression, or gender identity is a major source of stress that stems from societal homophobia and transphobia.
Healthcare Disparities Compared to their cisgender-heterosexual peers, LGBTQ+ youth have less access to healthcare services.
Family Rejection One of the most powerful socioecological support networks that influences a person’s health is their family. Only one in three LGBTQ youth said that their home was LGBTQ-affirming, according to a research. After coming out, LGBTQ+ youth frequently endure familial rejection; this has a significant impact on both their physical and emotional health.
Protective Factors for the mental health of LGBTQ+ youth
According to several research, LGBTQ+ youth who feel a feeling of belonging are less likely to experience depression and suicide thoughts. Supportive medical professionals, families, schools, and communities are some protective elements that aid in creating a sense of belonging. Supporting initiatives, regulations, and tools that prioritise the mental health of LGBTQ+ adolescents is essential to establishing good changes towards improved mental health.
Recommendations for Preventing Bullying
It has been demonstrated that anti-bullying regulations have a protective effect on LGBTQ+ youths’ mental health, hence reducing the risk of suicidality. Recommendations on anti-bullying initiatives are made for LGBTQ+ advocates, public officials, and school administration/principals with the goal of reducing the harm to mental health brought on by victimisation and the stigma attached to LGBTQ+ identities.
Recommendations for Suicide Prevention
Promoting safety measures and ending prejudice against the LGBTQ+ community goes hand in hand with initiatives to lower the risk of suicide by tackling the root causes of mental health issues.
Recommendations for Better Schools
Most students’ lives and cultures still revolve around their schools, despite the fact that they are frequently among the most homophobic and transphobic organisations in society. Schools must be aware of the reality that LGBTQ+ students frequently endure disproportionate amounts of bullying and victimisation, especially since many LGBTQ+ youth choose to come out during their high school years. They should therefore be prepared to combat such disparities by fostering accepting, secure, and supportive settings, which can boost LGBTQ+ students’ academic performance. Schools should incorporate a variety of evidence-based policies, programmes, and procedures to provide a healthy environment for all students, especially LGBTQ+ youth who are frequently the most vulnerable.
Counsellors Many LGBTQ+ students have stated that the staff members with whom they feel most at ease when discussing their struggles with gender identity or sexual orientation are the school counsellors. The success of LGBTQ+ youth can be greatly influenced by supportive school counsellors, which can balance out the potentially harsh and detrimental experiences that these youth may have in school environments. Additionally, school counsellors should encourage LGBTQ+ students to openly discuss their experiences with bullying and harassment with faculty members in order to create a welcoming climate for discussion. By doing this, school personnel would find it simpler to get to know LGBTQ+ pupils and help them understand the negative psychological and physical effects of bullying. Spaces and Groups A promising solution to lessen discrimination, stigmatisation, and bullying in schools is the creation of youth-driven Gender and Sexuality Alliances (GSAs). School/ School District Policies Unsurprisingly, the mental health of LGBTQ+ kids is significantly influenced by school and school district policy. In schools with anti-harassment measures in place, LGBTQ+ students are less likely to experience harassment and are more likely to feel comfortable. Curriculum The adoption of inclusive curricula by schools that cover all subject areas and incorporate LGBTQ+ history as well as pertinent data about the LGBTQ+ population is encouraged. Such educational programmes would have a significant impact on enhancing students’ feelings of acceptance and safety while lowering victimisation rates.
Recommendations for Social Support
Another important protective factor for LGBTQ+ kids is social connectivity, particularly within the LGBTQ+ community. When compared to LGBTQ+ youth who are abandoned by friends after coming out, those with supportive friendships report lower levels of sadness and suicidal ideation as well as higher levels of self-esteem.
Participating in LGBTQ+ organisations can help young people discover both peer support and empowerment while also allowing them to deepen their connections to LGBTQ+ communities and advocate for the change they want to see. Support from the family has a critical protective role in LGBTQ+ youth’s resiliency and wellbeing. Family support, which includes respecting different manifestations of gender and having open conversations about gender identity and sexual orientation, has been associated with higher levels of self-esteem and a decreased risk of adverse mental health outcomes, such as suicidality.
Recommendations for Healthcare
Clinicians must be urged to be more sympathetic to the concerns of the LGBTQ+ community in order to improve the standard of and access to mental healthcare for this population. Establishing empathy would result in less discrimination, prejudice, and stigmatisation, all of which are essential for relieving the load on LGBTQ+ communities’ mental health. Paediatricians must be knowledgeable with the resources available locally in the continuum of mental healthcare as well as how to apply the principles of mental health practise to LGBTQ+ youth.
Create inclusive and accommodating spaces for LGBTQ+ youth
Even while family support is a significant protective factor for LGBTQ+ adolescents’s mental health, LGBTQ+ youth frequently experience rejection from their own families in addition to a lack of support from their schools. Because many healthcare professionals still harbour prejudices towards LGBTQ+ people and fail to foster open and accepting environments, many LGBTQ+ youth do not feel comfortable telling their mental healthcare providers about their sexual orientation or gender identity.
Given that the majority of these risk factors have a strong foundation in our social institutions, it is crucial to address these disparities by creating and promoting programmes and policies that encourage societal change. Additionally, it is essential for parents to be involved both inside and outside of schools in order to ensure LGBTQ+ youth safety. By creating LGBTQ+-specific training for counsellors and staff, enacting and upholding strict anti-bullying rules, creating safe places like GSAs, and implementing LGBTQ+-inclusive curricula, schools may actively support LGBTQ+ students. Additionally, healthcare systems must change to accommodate LGBTQ+ youth and make them feel safer.
To eliminate gaps in mental health, health professionals should create training tailored specifically for LGBTQ+ kids, emphasising their unique problems and risk factors. Overall, this model places a strong emphasis on providing LGBTQ+ adolescents with safe spaces, shielding them from harm, and building easily available support networks to promote better mental health outcomes.
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