Skip to content
Group 401

Protecting LGBTQ Youth from Mental Illness and Substance Abuse

Did you know that the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) community is three times more likely to be affected by mental health conditions, including depression and generalized anxiety disorder?

Why? There are several reasons why LGBTQ youth are at a greater risk. First, mental health disorders in the LGBTQ community often develop from the fear of coming out and of the fear of discrimination. When present, this fear can lead to depression, anxiety, isolation, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal thoughts. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), “nearly one-third (29%) of LGB youth had attempted suicide at least once in the prior year compared to 6% of heterosexual youth.” Another factor that might influence a greater risk includes negative peer interactions, often occurring at school and social circles. More than one-third of LGBTQ youth are be bullied at school. Treatment from peers leads many LGBTQ teens into depression or increasing generalized anxiety.

In addition to increased depression and suicide risks in LGBTQ youth, substance abuse represents another important concern. Around 20% to 30% of this community have issues has a substance abuse disorder, compared to 9% of the general population. The CDC contends “reaction to homophobia, discrimination, or violence” can increase alcohol and drug use.

Mental Health Disorder & Substance Abuse Prevention for LGBTQ Teens Begins at Home

While societal pressures leading to depression, suicide and substance abuse in the LGBTQ community remain a concern, small measures can be taken on an individual level. Parents of LGBTQ youth can start by encouraging a clear line of honest and sincere communication. Being supportive and open will help your teen meet the challenges they face at school.

After a line of communication is established, encourage your LGBTQ youth to share troubles from school, as well as issues encounter on social media. Cyber bullying can affect up to 30% of LGBTQ teens. In addition to being supportive, parents should watch for changes of behaviors that may signal bullying. Counseling for your teen and/or family can also help ease the journey into adulthood.

Friends and family of the LGBTQ community can also provide care in the following ways:

  1. Be Available: Make sure your friend or loved one knows you are there to talk and listen when it’s needed most. Keep an open line of communication, so your loved one knows there’s always someone to talk to and somewhere to turn when things seem bleak.
  2. Be Supportive: Instead of simply dismissing your loved ones fears, provide encouragement and positive reinforcement. Recognize and try to relate to your friend or loved one’s concerns.
  3. Be Proactive: If you see your loved one drifting toward a mental health disorder, reach out to a support group, doctor, counselor, or mental health center.

Horizon Health Services offers treatment and support for individuals, their families and loved ones impacted by substance use and/or mental health disorders. Please call us at (716) 831.1800, we can help.