Depression is one of the most common mental health conditions in the United States. Affects an estimate 17.3 million adults and 3.2 million adolescents in the United States, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.

Depression affects LGBTQIA+ people at higher rates than straight and cisgender people. LGBTQIA+ youth are more likely than heterosexual students to report high levels of drug use and feelings of depression.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)Suicide is the second leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 34 in the United States. In 2019, around 23 percent of LGB youth attempted suicide vs. 6 percent of heterosexual youth.

Adolescence is a difficult time for many youth and can be especially challenging for LGBTQIA+ youth. Negative attitudes and cultural stigmas put LGBTQIA+ youth at greater risk of bullying, teasing, and physical violence than their heterosexual peers.

The Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) published a report in 2013 on LGBT youth that states the following:

  • 55% of LGBT youth feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation and 37% feel unsafe because of their gender expression.
  • Seventy-four percent of LGBT youth were verbally harassed because of their sexual orientation and 56 percent were verbally harassed because of their gender expression.
  • Sixteen percent were physically assaulted, whether punched, kicked, or injured with a weapon, because of their sexual orientation, and 11 percent of them experienced this type of assault because of their gender expression.

A hostile school environment affects a student’s performance in school and their mental health. LGBTQIA+ students who experience victimization and discrimination often have lower grades and do not perform as well academically.

The challenges for many LGBTQIA+ youth don’t stop when the school bell rings. How a parent responds to their LGBTQIA+ teen can have a tremendous impact on their child’s current and future physical and mental health.

Many parents react negatively to learning that their teen is LGBTQIA+ and may even kick them out of the house, while other LGBTQIA+ teens run away from home due to conflict or stress with their parents. Because of this, LGBTQIA+ youth are also at higher risk of becoming homeless than non-LGBTQIA+ youth.

The true colors background states that 4.2 million youth experience homelessness each year and that 40 percent of these homeless youth are LGBTQ. This number is even more staggering considering that LGBT people make up only 7 percent of the youth population.

These homeless youth are at greater risk of discrimination, victimization, and mental health problems than those who are homeless.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the stress experienced by LGBT youth puts them at higher risk for mental health problems and other health risks than heterosexual youth. These health risks include:

  • behaviors that contribute to violence, such as carrying a weapon or getting into fights
  • behaviors that contribute to unintentional injuries, such as driving without a seat belt or drunk driving
  • use of tobacco, alcohol, or other drugs
  • sexual behaviors, such as not using birth control or barrier methods
  • depression
  • suicide or suicide attempts

one 2011 study suggests that LGB adults also have higher rates of mood and anxiety disorders and are at higher risk of suicidal behavior than heterosexual adults.

Depression in LGB adults is often rooted in discrimination, stigma, and victimization from childhood and adolescence. according to a 2015 report, 20 percent of transgender people avoided or postponed receiving medical care for fear of discrimination. More comprehensive research on transgender people is still lacking.

Some investigate aims to study depression in older homosexual men. It examines cognitive behavioral therapy, its benefits, and how effective it is for gay men over the age of 60.

Support can begin in childhood and adolescence. It is important for LGBTQIA+ youth to have support, both at school and at home. All LGBTQIA+ people should feel comfortable and safe in environments that are socially, emotionally, and physically supportive.

College

Resources to support LGBTQIA+ teens are still lacking in many schools, but school climate and attitudes have improved over the years, according to GLSEN.

The GLSEN report it also states that LGBT youth who have access to support do better in school. Schools can do a number of things to make the environment safer and more supportive of LGBTQIA+ youth, including:

  • implement clear policies against discrimination and harassment
  • encourage support groups, such as gay-straight alliances and other student clubs
  • implement LGBTQIA+ themes as part of the curriculum
  • have a support staff

House

Parents should be willing to talk openly with their teens about any problems they are having at home or at school and watch for signs of bullying or violence. Parents should:

  • speak
  • listen
  • be supportive
  • be proactive
  • staying involved in the lives of your teens

Means

There are many resources available online for LGBTQIA+ youth, including:

If you think someone is at immediate risk of harming themselves or someone else:

  • Contact a trusted friend, family member, or health professional. Consider calling 911 or your local emergency number if you can’t reach them.
  • If possible, remove any weapons, substances, or other things that could cause harm.
  • Stay with the person until help arrives.
  • Listen, but don’t judge, argue, threaten, or yell.

If you think someone is considering suicide, get help from a suicide prevention or crisis hotline. Try the National Lifeline for Suicide Prevention at 800-273-8255, the SAMHSA National Helpline at 800-662-4357, or text “HOME” at 741741.

Adolescence is a challenging time and can be even more challenging for LGBTQIA+ youth due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. They are at increased risk of discrimination and harassment, and are also at increased risk of physical and mental health problems, such as depression.

It is important to remember that you are not alone. While attitudes and the social climate continue to improve, there are many resources available to help LGBTQIA+ youth and adults deal with challenges and find support.