Mental health is a critical aspect of our overall well-being, and it’s essential for young people in LGBTQ+ communities who face unique challenges. Unfortunately, many obstacles stand in the way of mental health care for LGBTQ+ youth. From discrimination and stigma to a lack of providers understanding and affirming their unique experiences, it can be challenging for LGBTQ+ young people to get the support they need and deserve. To make matters worse, many also struggle with specific mental health issues like depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. Despite these challenges, there are solutions out there that can make a real difference. In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the challenges facing LGBTQ+ youth in mental health care and explore ways we can work together to create a brighter, healthier future for them.
Mental Healthcare Challenges for LGBTQ+ Youth
As we all know, the majority of LGBTQ+ populations, but especially LGBTQ+ youth, have unique challenges accessing the mental health treatment they need. Stigma and discrimination rank among the most significant obstacles at the moment. Despite advancements in recent years, many people still harbor prejudice toward those who identify as LGBTQ+. Additionally, many healthcare professionals can’t wholly comprehend LGBTQ+ young people’s unique needs and experiences because they haven’t received adequate LGBTQ+ training.
All of these challenges can result in LGBTQ+ youth experiencing feelings of humiliation and loneliness. Sometimes, this can make them think they have nowhere to turn to support like nobody truly gets them.
Finally, another major challenge facing LGBTQ+ youth is limited access to mental health services. Resources for mental health are already in short supply in many places, and even when they are present, they may not be accessible or affordable for LGBTQ+ youth who may not have the financial means to pay for treatment and services. Even if LGBTQ+ youth find a provider they feel at ease with, they might still run into governmental restrictions preventing them from receiving specific therapies and services.
Mental Health Issues Faced by LGBTQ+ Youth
It’s no secret many LGBTQ+ adolescents have various unique mental health concerns that call for affirming treatment. Since each mental health condition comes with its own challenges and roots, we compiled them into a list:
One of the most prevalent mental health conditions affecting LGBTQ+ youth is depression. Because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, LGBTQ+ young people might encounter prejudice, abuse, or rejection from peers and family members, which can cause them to feel depressed, hopeless, or anxious. They might also experience internalized homophobia or transphobia, which can lead to problems with self-doubt and poor self-esteem. In some cases, these feelings can trigger suicidal thoughts and self-harm. That’s why it’s important not to let this condition stay untreated.
Many people who identify as LGBTQ+ can have PTSD. The reasons for this are almost identical to the ones we’ve listed for depression. For instance, for many young LGBTQ+ people, trauma often stems from the prejudice and bullying they experienced due to their sexual orientation or gender identity. Flashbacks, nightmares, and hypervigilance are just a few of the symptoms of this condition. And to overcome PTSD, most people must spend much time working on themselves and in therapy.
Another mental health condition that often impacts many young members of LGBTQ+ communities is substance abuse. Some people use substances to relieve the tension and anxiety of everyday life, while others use substances to alleviate feelings of rejection or shame. Sadly, substance abuse can quickly worsen and result in severe health issues, such as addiction and overdose, as well as depression, anxiety, and suicidality.
Telemedicine and telehealth should not take the place of in-person care or serve as a stand-in for strong patient-physician engagement. It ought to improve it. In addition to providing care during an in-person appointment, doctors can provide flexible and convenient extra care through remote telehealth services. That can include checkups, follow-up visits, and education sessions. Therefore, telehealth can be a great way to check in with your physician without visiting their office if you need a follow-up appointment. Since these appointments are frequently brief, scheduling them online is considerably more practical. Furthermore, traveling to your appointment could be challenging if you’re still healing from a procedure. As a result, the trouble of making follow-up appointments is eliminated via telehealth.
How to Improve Mental Healthcare for LGBTQ+ Youth
While we established that the state of current mental health care for LGBTQ+ youth is not at a desirable level, the good news is that there are some things we can all do:
The most crucial action we can take to enhance the mental health services provided to LGBTQ+ youth is to raise awareness of the particular difficulties they experience. We can lessen stigma and discrimination and make it easier for LGBTQ+ teens and young adults to seek mental health treatment by raising general awareness of these problems.
Providing Affirming Care
Youth who identify as LGBTQ+ will need affirming treatment for conditions like depression, anxiety, and PTSD. To provide this affirming treatment and meet LGBTQ+ youth’s particular needs, people at Archstone Behavioral Health suggest mental health professionals treating conditions, such as substance abuse, must also be educated in affirmation. That entails being aware of the particular challenges that LGBTQ+ youth encounter when coming out and being able to provide them with adequate treatment that takes into account their personal needs.
Addressing Legal Barriers
Numerous legal and legislative restrictions constrain the accessibility of mental health services for LGBTQ+ youth. These barriers include laws that forbid specific treatments, unequal health insurance coverage, or a shortage of money for mental health services. Promoting policy change can assist in removing these obstacles and enhancing patient access to treatment.
Creating safe spaces, like LGBTQ+ community centers, support groups, and mentorship programs, can make it easier for LGBTQ+ youth to seek mental health treatment. These settings can offer welcoming atmospheres where LGBTQ+ young people can interact with those who share their experiences and discover tools to support their mental health.
It’s important to remember that mental health care is not a one-size-fits-all solution and that LGBTQ+ youth require care tailored to their unique needs and experiences.
By providing this affirming care and support, we can help LGBTQ+ young people overcome the challenges they face and thrive. Let’s continue to advocate for better mental health care for LGBTQ+ youth and create a world where everyone can live their lives to the fullest!
To learn more, visit the OutTalk Series episode on LGBTQ+ Mental Health featuring the National Coalition for LGBTQ Health, Duke Health, and Partnership to End Addiction. The panel shared their diverse perspectives and experiences on mental health, provided valuable tips and resources to help you embrace your best self, and prepared providers to ask the right questions.
Author bio: Kit Walter is a writer and mental health advocate specializing in supporting LGBTQ+ youth. As part of the community, Kit knows the ups and downs of navigating things like coming out, gender identity, and family dynamics. When Kit’s not writing, you might find them playing video games or cuddling their cat, Taco.