Participating in the recent Capital Pride Parade in Washington, D.C., was an important step in the National Council’s efforts to raise awareness about the discrimination LGBTQ+ communities face.
Actually, our group took nearly 50,000 steps combined. But the journey to promote health equity and eliminate stigma didn’t end at the conclusion of the parade. Nor should it.
The pandemic ravished our collective wellbeing. Rates of clinical depression had been rising steadily in the U.S. but “jumped notably” in recent years, according to data from Gallup, the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) Behavioral Risk Factor Surveillance System and numerous other sources.
“The fact that Americans are more depressed and struggling after this time of incredible stress and isolation is perhaps not surprising,” Dr. Rebecca Brendel, president of the American Psychiatric Association, told CNN. “There are lingering effects on our health, especially our mental health, from the past three years that disrupted everything we knew.”
As we wrap up Pride Month, it’s important to acknowledge that the mental wellbeing of LGBTQ+ communities, especially youth, deteriorated during the pandemic. It has not recovered.
A report released in May by The Trevor Project, an LGBTQ+ youth suicide prevention organization, found 41% of LGBTQ+ children, teens and young adults in the U.S. seriously considered suicide over the past year — including more than half of transgender and nonbinary respondents. That is an alarming statistic, and we can’t ignore it.
In addition, 52% of young LGBTQ+ respondents in a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) survey in February said their mental health had been poor over the past year. A staggering 22% said they had attempted suicide.
While people in LGBTQ+ communities report that they need substance use and mental health treatment and care, they also say that they can’t always find the help they need. More than 56% of LGBTQ+ young people who wanted mental health care in the last year were not able to get it, according to the report from The Trevor Project. That isn’t surprising, as we know many barriers to access prevent people of all backgrounds from getting the help they need.
The destructive impact of discrimination has played a significant role in the wellbeing of LGBTQ+ communities. More anti-LGBTQ+ bills passed into state law in the first four months of 2023 than at any other time in U.S. history, a Washington Post analysis found. The Trevor Project found that a third of LGBTQ young people believe their mental health has been negatively impacted by a recent wave of legislation around the country targeting the community.
“LGBTQ young people are not inherently prone to increased suicide risk because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity, but rather they are placed at higher risk because of the mistreatment and stigmatization that they experience in society,” Ronita Rath, The Trevor Project’s vice president of research, told STAT News.
The Pride in Mental Health Act, introduced earlier this month, would improve access to mental health resources and supports for young LGBTQ+ people.
We also have opportunities to better support LGBTQ+ communities by examining and improving the services available. We can connect people in need to the many resources we’ve compiled to promote awareness and provide learning opportunities, let them know about support services through organizations like The Trevor Project and inform them of the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline, which has crisis counselors specifically trained to support LGBTQ+ youth and people under the age of 25 available by chat, texting 988 and selecting option 3 when calling 988.
Failure to provide support can lead to lasting harm. Research has demonstrated that individuals who have experienced multiple adverse childhood experiences (ACEs) are at greater risk for mental health and substance use challenges.
What else can we do to help LGBTQ+ communities in need of mental health treatment? Does your organization have effective strategies to help LGBTQ+ communities find the treatment and care they need? What are they?
If you or someone you know may be considering suicide, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline: Call or text 988 or chat 988lifeline.org today.
(he/him/his) President and CEO
National Council for Mental Wellbeing