In an alarming new study, researchers with The Trevor Project have found that up to 42% of LGBTQ youth experienced suicidal thoughts throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. More troubling: 94% of those surveyed said recent political events had negatively impacted their mental health.
Kate Sosin of nonprofit newsroom The 19th reported that the data “draws from online surveys of nearly 35,000 youth conducted between October and December 2020.”
Amit Paley, CEO and Executive Director of The Trevor Project, told Sosin he was shocked by the numbers his organization had compiled.
“The impact that COVID-19 had on the mental health of LGBTQ young people was profound,” Paley said. “Almost every LGBTQ young person in our sample said that their mental health was negatively impacted by politics.”
According to Sosin, the issue stems from a number of different factors: “many kids have spent the pandemic cooped up in homes where their parents don’t support them,” and many respondents also reported feeling “cut off from friends and activities that allow them to be themselves.”
Paley said that 60% of trans and nonbinary youth in the report revealed that the pandemic had negatively impacted their ability to express their gender identity. He added that these individuals also continue to hear the news that more than 30 states are weighing anti-LGBTQ bills attacking their rights, “sending the message that they are unwelcome in their schools and communities.”
“For lawmakers who identify themselves as pro-life and wanting to protect the lives of people, one of the most profound things they can do to help people and to save lives will be to stop pushing bills that put the lives of LGBTQ youth, and specifically trans youth, at risk and to, instead, put forward proposals that can affirm and support them,” Paley said.
Other findings from the report:
- 80% of those surveyed said that the pandemic had their living situation more stressful
- 70% described their mental health as “poor” all or most of the time (that number grew to 85% for transgender and nonbinary individuals)
- 75% of those surveyed said they had personally experienced discrimination
- 48% of youth in the survey said they wanted mental health services yet couldn’t get them
- Despite being illegal in nearly half the country, 13% of those surveyed said they had still been subjected to some form of “conversion therapy” in an effort to alter their sexuality or gender identity
“The statistics for queer youth of color were even more jarring,” Sosin reported. “While 12% of white queer youth reported attempting suicide over the last year, 31% of Native/Indigenous youth reported attempts. For Black youth, that number was 21%, and Latinx kids reported attempts at 18%; 21% of multiracial youth made attempts, as did 12% of Asian American and Pacific Islander youth.”
“Sometimes people ask what is it about LGBTQ young people that causes them to be more likely to attempt suicide or have mental health issues, and it’s very important to make clear, LGBTQ people are not born more likely to attempt suicide or to face depression or anxiety,” Paley told Sosin. “It is that discrimination and stigmatization that causes people to feel alone or feel mental health burdens.”