Native LGBTQ+ Youth and Mental Health Struggles

“Lumping diverse youth into broad identity categories and applying single-size approaches does a disservice to everyone, and makes our work to end LGBTQ youth suicide even harder. This year’s findings emphasize the importance of intersectionality in research, particularly among a community as diverse as LGBTQ youth, as disparities in mental health and suicide risk were found across race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, and gender identity. We urge fellow researchers to include expansive identity terminology in all youth survey research, and for public health officials and youth-serving organizations to tailor services to meet LGBTQ youth’s unique needs. Only then will we be able to better understand and support the young people who need us most.” – Dr. Myeshia Price (she/her or they/them), Senior Research Scientist for The Trevor Project

The month of June brings a lot of colors and topics of discussion each year. The focus on Pride and celebrating the LGBTQ+ community also brings the heavy discussion of acceptance and mental health. Mental health within the LGBTQ+ community has been a struggle for many, specifically for teenagers and young adults.

The Trevor Project is an organization whose mission is “to end suicide among lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer & questioning young people.” The Trevor Project provides support and available contacts for young people to talk to. In their “2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health,” they surveyed LGBTQ youth ages 13-24 across the United States, providing critical insights into suicide risk, mental health care, and the way the COVID-19 pandemic has affected the mental health of LGBTQ+ youth.

“With 45% of respondents being LGBTQ youth of color and 48% being transgender or nonbinary, The Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health is one of the most diverse surveys of LGBTQ youth ever conducted,” said Dr. Myeshia Price (she/her or they/them), Senior Research Scientist for The Trevor Project. “Across race and ethnicity, Native/Indigenous LGBTQ youth reported the highest rates of seriously considering and attempting suicide, symptoms of depression and anxiety, and being physically harmed or discriminated against on the basis of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”

Understanding Native LGBTQ+ Struggles

It is a sad truth that out of the races and ethnicities surveyed, Indigenous or Native LGBTQ youth reported the highest rates of both considering and attempting suicide. Why? I wish I knew how to answer that. Each LGBTQ+ person has their own journey, struggles, and reasoning to respond to their mental health. The reasoning for considering and/or attempting suicide is unique to each person. Cultural identity and sexual identity are both very important pieces of what makes someone a human. For a young person to go through the pressure in figuring everything out is a huge challenge in our world today.

The beauty of the human race and this survey is the diversity of humanity. By highlighting diversity, we see a wide array of culture, identities, and celebration of differences. The very sense of being different can be celebrated but also targeted. In today’s day and age in the U.S. we experience so many emotions, opinions, politics, and challenges surrounding every issue, including the LGBTQ+ community. To be a young person that is struggling to find their identity in a culture, in a country, and in a world that does not fully accept or understand, is scary. In fear, the youth of today can spiral in their mental health and in some cases, consider and commit suicide.

Becoming a Change Agent for LGBTQ+ Health

The survey from The Trevor Project presents an opportunity for us to increase our awareness and care for those LGBTQ+ youth that struggle in this space of anxiety, depression, mental health, and suicide. In our facilities, communities, and families, the invitation is to be aware of the necessary care.

Medical providers ranging from the front desk, to nurses, to physicians are oftentimes trusted by patients because of the necessary questions within a healthcare exam. Because of this trust and confidential information, there may be information disclosed from Native LGBTQ+ youth regarding their sexual identity, mental health, and struggles. In these conversations, there is a necessary level of emotional care just as much as there is for medical care. Being vulnerable can be scary but responding with understanding and genuine care can transform the lives of those youth struggling today.

This month is a month of celebration and being proud, but there are also deep struggles that present themselves for those that are not accepted, for those that are still in the closet, and for those that struggle with their mental health. Being active change agents in the way that we offer care, both inside and outside of our facilities, is crucial to transforming the lives of our young people.

Happy Pride. Be Proud.

If you or anyone is struggling in the mental health space, you are not alone and there is support for you.

For more information about The Trevor Project:

The Trevor Project Website

2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health

Suicide Hotline: (800) 273-82556

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