LGBTQ Youth and Mental Health

The LGBTQ community are highly susceptible to mental health issues and other health related issues, especially LGBTQ people of color, so it is imperative health professionals are trained in specifically LGBTQ issues and use inclusive terminology.

A lot of LGBTQ people experience uncomfortability at the doctor’s office or hospital. I know for myself it was difficult to have conversations with medical professionals. The questions they asked me as a teen often assumed heterosexuality. They asked if I was sexually active, and if I respond yes then the immediate follow-up information given was about pregnancy or condom use (in reference to the male anatomy), which frankly was not an issue for my sixteen-year-old queer self. This developed into a hesitation to see medical professionals and though I am over that now because I met doctors who are extremely educated on LGBTQ topics, it can be detrimental to people if they do not feel welcome in a medical space.

The LGBTQ community are highly susceptible to mental health issues and other health related issues, especially LGBTQ people of color, so it is imperative health professionals are trained in specifically LGBTQ issues and use inclusive terminology. It would have made a major difference in my own acceptance of my sexuality had I been able to openly discuss my sexual health with adults, specifically doctors, rather than feeling as if it were abnormal.   


  • 28% of LGBT youth (including 40% of transgender youth) have felt heavily depressed. 
  • LGBT youth with unaccepting families are more than 3 times as likely to consider a suicide attempt. 
  • LGB youth are more than twice as likely to feel suicidal and over four times as likely to attempt suicide. 
  • ⅓ of transgender youth have seriously considered suicide, and one in five has made an attempt. 
  • 24% of the suicide deaths in the 12 to 14 year age group are among LGBTQ youth 

Intersectional Identities

Intersectional identities, such as race, gender, and class combined with sexual orientation directly affects a person’s mental health and can lead to increased risk of suicide. 

Some of the reasoning behind the increased risks and stress for LGBTQ youth of color are listed below:

  • Minorities, specifically African American and Latinx communities are predisposed to certain unique stresses in our oppressive society. 
  • There is an increased rate of hate crime violence and family rejection for LGBT youth of color. 
  • Racial and ethnic minority communities may not be as far along in the “coming out process” as their white LGBTQ youth counterparts.
  • LGBTQ racial minorities can feel unaccepted within the larger LGBTQ community. 
  • Black youth report less involvement within the LGBTQ community than white youth
  • 60% of incarcerated LGBTQ youth are Black or Latino.
  • High school students with gender non-conforming identities, including transgender, have a strong connection to substance abuse, which increases their risk of committing suicide. 
  • 40% of homeless youth are LGBTQ  

Preventative Care and Resources

  • Local LGBTQ resource centers 
  • Substance abuse rehabilitation treatment
  • Mental health care such as therapy with methods like CBT
  • LGBTQ youth programs organized through the church or school
  • Programs and resources to combat homelessness – such as the Center on Halsted in Chicago  
  • GSA & other safe spaces

Things you can do

  • Help teachers recognize the signs of bullying and appearance of mental health issues through sensitivity training
  • Include discussions about LGBT people in sex education classes and implement zero tolerance policies for bullying based on sexual orientation or gender identity
  • Advocate for greater access to healthcare to obtain medical attention needed mentally and physically 
  • Encouragement of LGBTQ community involvement  
  • Educating school social workers on how to talk to LGBTQ youth
  • Anti-bullying of LGBTQ youth campaigns which include cyberbullying


The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-8255
The Trevor Project lifeline -1-866-488-7386 
In Illinois, you can visit http://chicagolgbtservices.org/placecategory/homeless/ 

Articles Referenced

Bostwick, Wendy B, et al. “Mental Health and Suicidality among Racially/Ethnically Diverse Sexual Minority Youths.” American Journal of Public Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine, June 2014, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4062032/.

Daley, Andrea, et al. “Traversing the Margins: Intersectionalities in the Bullying of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Youth.” Journal of Gay & Lesbian Social Services, vol. 19, no. 3-4, 2007, pp. 9–29., doi:10.1080/10538720802161474.

Hunt, Jerome, and Aisha Moodie-Mills . “The Unfair Criminalization of Gay and Transgender Youth An Overview of the Experiences of LGBT Youth in the Juvenile Justice System.” Center for American Progress, June 2012, pp. 1–12.

Lowry, Richard, et al. “Nonconforming Gender Expression and Associated Mental Distress and Substance Use Among High School Students.” JAMA Pediatrics, vol. 172, no. 11, 2018, p. 1020., doi:10.1001/jamapediatrics.2018.2140.

Murphy, James, and Rashad Hardaway. “LGBTQ Adolescents of Color: Considerations for Working with Youth and Their Families.” Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health, vol. 21, no. 3, June 2017, pp. 221–227., doi:10.1080/19359705.2017.1320741.

O’donnell, Shannon, et al. “Increased Risk of Suicide Attempts Among Black and Latino Lesbians, Gay Men, and Bisexuals.” American Journal of Public Health, vol. 101, no. 6, 2011, pp. 1055–1059., doi:10.2105/ajph.2010.300032.

Rosario, Margaret, et al. “Ethnic/Racial Differences in the Coming-out Process of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Youths: A Comparison of Sexual Identity Development over Time.” Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology, vol. 10, no. 3, 2004, pp. 215–228., doi:10.1037/1099-9809.10.3.215.

Mereish, Peters, Yen. (2019) Minority Stress and Relational Mechanisms of Suicide among Sexual Minorities: Subgroup Differences in the Associations Between Heterosexist Victimization, Shame, Rejection Sensitivity, and Suicide Risk. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior 49:2, 547-560. 

Poštuvan, Podlogar, Zadravec Šedivy, Leo. (2019) Suicidal behaviour among sexual-minority youth: a review of the role of acceptance and support. The Lancet Child & Adolescent Health 3:3, 190-198. 

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