May is National Mental Health Awareness Month, and through HRC’s new partnership with Mental Health America, HRC is shining a light on the mental health needs and challenges for many LGBTQ youth. The cumulative impact of family rejection, bullying and harassment at school, anti-LGBTQ sentiment expressed by lawmakers and leaders, and real experiences of discrimination and bias leave LGBTQ youth take an emotional toll on LGBTQ youth. In fact, the 2015 Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS), which is administered biannually by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), found that high school students who identified as LGB were over three times as likely to have considered suicide than their heterosexual peers, and LGB students also reported significantly higher rates of substance use, obesity, and feeling so sad or hopeless they stopped doing their usual activities. Transgender and gender non-binary students have it worse, often subjected to the highest rates of physical and verbal harassment. A report by GLSEN spotlights this reality— 65 percent reported being verbally harassed based on their gender expression, and one in four reported being physically harassed. An alarming 75 percent of transgender students felt unsafe in their school, and 70 percent reported avoiding the bathroom at their school due to safety concerns. Many non-transgender students, too, are harassed for their gender expression: According to a report from Advocates for Youth and the All Students Count Coalition, boys who described themselves as feminine were three times more likely than self-described masculine boys to miss school because of feeling unsafe, while girls who described themselves as androgynous were two times more likely to be cyber bullied compared to feminine girls.
All of us—parents, educators, coaches, mentors, counselors, leaders, and peers, have an important role to play in changing the landscape for our youth, and chiseling away at these stressors and barriers that compromise the mental health of LGBTQ youth. As a starting point, let’s encourage young people to speak openly and honestly about their mental health, helping to reduce stigma and to empower others to seek help and support when it’s needed. As modeled by the HRC Youth Ambassadors featured in this short video, sharing our personal stories about mental health struggles can help others feel less afraid, less alone, and less ashamed. To learn more about mental health, including how to screen for depression, anxiety, and other common mental health disorders, visit www.mhascreening.org.
To learn more about the behavioral health disparities of gender expansive youth, click here.