Individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer, intersex, asexual, and/or questioning (LGBTQIA+) are often marginalized because of societal stigma and prejudice. This discrimination contributes to them being at a significantly greater risk of experiencing mental health challenges and suicidality. A 2017 study found that LGBTQIA+ youth were four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers, and more than half of transgender and nonbinary youth had seriously considered suicide in the previous year. These challenges are further confounded by the lack of culturally responsive behavioral health treatment and care.
At Crisis Text Line, almost 50% of our surveyed texters self-identified as LGBTQIA+, and we understand that this marginalized group is in need of additional mental health support. As we seek to roll out additional services and resources for this population, it is important to look at how state policies impact the mental health of the LGBTQIA+ community.
A research study in collaboration with Crisis Text Line found that proposed anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation was associated with an increase in texts to Crisis Text Line from LGBTQIA+ youth. The corresponding increase in Crisis Text Line-support seeking conversations highlights an urgent phenomenon that such legislation—whether enacted or not—impacts LGBTQIA+ youth well-being and amplifies experiences of emotional distress. State legislative proposals limiting access to specialized services for LGBTQIA+ individuals may also represent a stressful social environment which can confound mental health problems.
Other research suggests that schools can foster well-being among students who identify as LGBTQIA+ by implementing activities such as gay-straight alliances and sexual education that address the needs of sexual minority youth. Schools can also adopt anti-bullying policies that specifically prohibit bullying based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Making schools safer places for LGBTQIA+ youth tends to make them more positive places for all youth and, according to a report by The Trevor Project, youth who found their school to be LGBTQIA+-affirming reported lower rates of attempting suicide. LGBTQIA+ youth, in particular, are in need of additional and culturally competent mental health support and services, in order to address the grave disparities faced by this population.
Crisis Text Line provides free, anonymous and non-judgmental mental health support. For those experiencing emotional distress or mental health challenges, please text HELLO or HOLA to 741741 to be connected to a live, trained volunteer Crisis Counselor.