Gaggle Speaks

Ideas, news, and advice for K-12 educators and administrators to help create safe learning environments.

Written by Dr. Kecia Ray
on June 29, 2023

According to the Trevor Project's National Survey on LGBTQ+ Youth Mental Health, LGBTQ+ youth are more likely than their peers to experience mental health challenges, including depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts and behaviors. However, LGBTQ+ youth who feel supported by their families and communities are significantly less likely to experience these challenges.

The survey found that LGBTQ+ youth who reported having at least one accepting adult were half as likely to have attempted suicide in the past year as those who did not have any accepting adults. They were also more likely to feel connected to their schools and communities and have positive mental health outcomes. 

These findings underscore the importance of acceptance and support for LGBTQ+ youth. When LGBTQ+ youth feel supported, they are likelier to thrive and live healthy, happy lives.

LGBTQ+ youth are people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning and who are under the age of 18. LGBTQ+ youth face unique challenges and opportunities as they grow up.

Some of the challenges that LGBTQ+ youth face include:

  • Discrimination and bullying from peers, family, and community members
  • Lack of acceptance and understanding from others
  • Increased risk of mental health problems, such as depression and anxiety
  • Increased risk of suicide

One solution to helping LGBTQ+ youth feel safe is monitoring for online behaviors that may include bullying or sexual predators. Although young people certainly want to maintain their privacy around such matters, they often post information without understanding the full impact of posting on the Internet. Additionally, youth exploring their identities may choose to be more secretive, utilizing the Internet as their ‘safe’ haven for communication, not realizing these conversations may be recorded and shared. Digital literacy is essential to help all youth recognize responsible Internet use. Monitoring online activity and behaviors is a great asset to ensure digital literacy skills are being used. 

Another support for youth is their families. A family approach involves families understanding their children's journey and helping them navigate it without judgment. Helping families learn how to support their LGBTQ+ children is not focused on changing a family’s values or beliefs. Educators and counselors should recognize the need for assistance and offer resources to guide them to support. Support may come from professional counseling, which should prioritize meeting parents, families, and caregivers “where they are” to build an alliance to support their LGBTQ+ children.  Helping families better understand that the reactions their child experiences to rejection may contribute to severe mental health concerns.

Despite the challenges, LGBTQ+ youth have many resources available through activist and nonprofit groups. Acceptance is essential for the mental health and well-being of LGBTQ+ youth. We must continue to work to create a world where all youth feel safe and supported, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.

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