With LGBTQ+ youths facing a unique set of challenges, it’s important that you support LGBTQ+ youth mental health when issues like anxiety, depression, suicide, and bullying arise. This means supporting and accepting your child no matter their sexual orientation or gender identity.
This article provides insights into the challenges LGBTQ+ youths face and offers several tips that can help you affirm your child, including advice for addressing your own feelings throughout the process.
Table of contents
- LGBTQ+ Mental Health Statistics and Risk Factors
- 4 Ways To Support LGBTQ+ Youths With Mental Health Issues
LGBTQ+ Mental Health Statistics and Risk Factors
To best support LGBTQ+ youth mental health, it’s important to first understand the breadth and depth of issues this dynamic community of teens and young adults often faces. A 2023 The Trevor Project survey of more than 28,000 LGBTQ+ young people ages 13-24 offers key insights. For example:
- Fewer than 40% of those surveyed found their home to be LGBTQ+ affirming.
- 60% reported they’ve felt discriminated against in the past year due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- Nearly 2 in 3 said hearing about potential state or local laws banning people from discussing LGBTQ+ people at school made their mental health a lot worse.
Additional insights on issues that may be affecting your LGBTQ+ youth, including suicide, follow.
LGBTQ+ youth suicide rates*
When it comes to LGBTQ+ youth mental health, The Trevor Project shared sobering statistics on LGBTQ+ youth suicide rates.
- 41% of LGBTQ+ young people seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, including half of transgender and nonbinary young people. For teens ages 13-17, 46% considered attempting it.
- 14% of LGBTQ+ young people attempted suicide in the past year, including nearly 1 in 5 transgender and nonbinary young people. For teens ages 13-17, 17% attempted it.
- Regarding race and ethnicity, Native/Indigenous young people were most likely to consider and attempt suicide, with 53% considering it and 22% attempting it.
Regarding LGBTQ+ youth suicide rates, it’s important to note the survey shared that:
- Young people who had access to affirming homes, schools, community events, and online spaces reported lower rates of attempting suicide compared to those who did not.
- Affirming gender identity for transgender and nonbinary young people is consistently associated with lower rates of attempted suicide.
LGBTQ+ youth depression rates
The LGBTQ+ youth depression rate is also concerning. The Trevor Project survey shared:
- 54% of LGBTQ+ young people reported symptoms of depression, including more than 3 in 5 transgender and nonbinary young people.
- Regarding sexual orientation, pansexual young people were the highest-reporting group, with 62% experiencing symptoms of depression.
- For gender identity, transgender men were the highest-reporting group, with 66% experiencing symptoms of depression.
It’s worth noting the LGBTQ+ youth depression rate for ages 13-17 showed improvement year over year. The 2022 Trevor Project survey reported a 61% rate for that age group, 4% higher than the 57% rate reported in the 2023 survey.
LGBTQ+ youth anxiety rates
The Trevor Project survey shared several insights on LGBTQ+ youth anxiety that illustrate it’s a serious issue.
- 67% of LGBTQ+ young people reported experiencing symptoms of anxiety, including nearly three-quarters of transgender and nonbinary young people.
- Regarding sexual orientation, pansexual and queer young people were the highest-reporting groups, with 73% of each group experiencing symptoms of anxiety.
- For gender identity, transgender men were the highest-reporting group, with 76% experiencing symptoms of anxiety.
It’s worth noting the LGBTQ+ youth anxiety for ages 13-17 showed improvement year over year. The 2022 Trevor Project survey reported a 75% rate for that age group, 5% higher than the 70% rate reported in the 2023 survey.
LGBTQ+ youth bullying statistics
Bullying in the LGBTQ+ community takes multiple forms, including physical abuse. According to The Trevor Project survey of LGBTQ+ young people:
- 24% reported they’ve been physically threatened or harmed in the past year due to their sexual orientation or gender identity.
- 18% shared they’ve been physically threatened or harmed in the past year due to their sexual orientation.
- 27% of transgender and nonbinary young people reported they’ve been physically threatened or harmed in the past year due to their gender identity.
Bullying in the LGBTQ+ community is further highlighted in the survey finding that those who experienced anti-LGBTQ+ victimization — including being physically threatened or harmed — reported more than twice the rate of suicide attempts in the past year than those who did not have those experiences.
4 Ways To Support LGBTQ+ Youths With Mental Health Issues
1. Recognize your LGTBQ+ youth’s identity and orientation
To best support your LGBTQ+ youth and LGBTQ+ youth mental health, start by openly recognizing your child’s unique gender identity and sexual orientation, which may shift over time, said Dr. Mona Treadway, a licensed clinical social worker with a doctorate in leadership and change. Treadway co-founded Embark’s Dragonfly Transitions, a young adult transitional living program in Oregon.
“What we see at Dragonfly is the level of pure acceptance for who they are: how they identify, their pronouns, their sexuality, their fluidity. Some days, maybe they’re playing with pronouns,” Treadway said. “Maybe one day they’re trying ‘he/her,’ maybe another it’s ‘they/them.’”
She advised practicing openness, acceptance, and the curiosity to understand what your child is experiencing.
Family member support makes a significant difference in LGBTQ+ youth mental health, according to The Trevor Project survey. For example, it shared that transgender and nonbinary young people who live in a home where everyone respects their pronouns reported lower rates of attempted suicide.
The importance of gender identity and orientation were further highlighted in survey findings on topics LGBTQ+ young people want people in their lives to know more about. The top five topics were:
- Support/acceptance (82%).
- Gender identity (78%).
- Sexual orientation (77%).
- Pronouns (74%).
- Creating safe spaces (68%).
2. Practice acceptance
When it comes to your LGBTQ+ youth and LGBTQ+ youth mental health, it’s important to keep in mind that whether you realize it or not, your child is paying attention to your words and actions and reacting to what they think you want. So, make sure you’re reinforcing your acceptance of their gender identity and sexual orientation.
Here are three ways to try this at home, according to Treadway:
- Invite your child to share when they’re ready.
- Explain that you’re ready to listen, but you don’t want to bombard them with questions or be overwhelming.
- Show interest by asking if you can attend a pride event or other similar function with your child.
For some parents, this could be challenging. Perhaps you’re grieving the loss of a daughter while also celebrating gaining a son. You may need your own space to process the changes your child is going through when coming out, so consider finding your own support system that will help you explore your feelings and learn versus leaving all of your questions for your child to answer.
3. Help them find mental health support
If your LGBTQ+ youth is struggling with their mental health and needs additional support, they could benefit from professional assistance — and they would not be alone in wanting that kind of help. According to The Trevor Project survey, 81% of LGBTQ+ young people wanted mental health care. However, not everyone who wanted it received it.
Find a therapist who’s LGBTQ+ affirming. Not all service providers are, and having a specialty in this area is essential. Based on recommendations from the National Alliance on Mental Illness, you could ask potential therapists:
- If they have experience working with people who share your child’s gender identity.
- What experience they have working with the LGBTQ+ community.
- Whether they have specific training or certifications related to working with LGBTQ+ clients.
In addition to finding an affirming therapist, talk to your child about the environment at their school. If needed, contact teachers and/or school administrators so you can work together to address any concerns.
LGBTQ+ youth mental health can also benefit from young people finding community. For example, PFLAG, an organization for LGBTQ+ people, their parents and families, and allies, has nearly 400 chapters across the country. Your local PFLAG could be a fantastic resource for you and your child.
4. Create a safe place for your LGBTQ+ youth
Creating and being a safe space for your LGBTQ+ youth can do so much for their emotional well-being, especially if there are mental health issues at play.
“If the acceptance piece is really there,” Treadway said, “then you can hone in on anxiety, depression, and trauma.”
The Family Acceptance Project has several recommendations for family behaviors that can benefit your LGBTQ+ youth, including:
- Require other family members to respect your child.
- Welcome your child’s LGBTQ+ friends to your home, family events, and activities.
- Believe your child can have a happy future as an LGBTQ+ adult.
When it comes to LGBTQ+ youth mental health and challenges like anxiety, depression, suicide, and bullying, it’s important to ensure your child knows that no matter what, their family members love, accept, and care for them.
*This article is for informational purposes only and not to be considered medical advice. If your child is having a mental health emergency, contact the 988 Suicide & Crisis Lifeline for immediate support by calling or texting 988. You can also text HOME to 741741 — the Crisis Text Line — from anywhere in the country to talk with a trained crisis counselor.
Embark is the most trusted name in teen and young adult mental health treatment. We’re driven to find the help your family needs. If you’re looking for support, contact us today!