Trevor Project gauges LGBTQ youth mental health

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This is the LGBTQ youth mental health fourth national survey

In 2022, The Trevor Project released its National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health. The survey, which is the fourth of its kind, collected a wide range of data about the mental health status of LGBTQ youth — including rates of suicide, trends of depression and anxiety, access to care and more — all in an effort to bring awareness to the ongoing mental health struggles plaguing LGBTQ teens and young adults. 

The Trevor Project is the leading suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth. Since 1998, the organization has helped lead the charge to end suicide among LGBTQ young people. In addition to their free 24/7 crisis counseling offered via phone, text, and chat, and their free educational tools and resources provided on their website, The Trevor Project also aids the community by providing ongoing research and data that spreads the awareness of the mental health challenges affecting LGBTQ youth. 

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“Capturing the experiences of nearly 34,000 LGBTQ youth ages 13 to 24 across the United States, with 45% of respondents being LGBTQ youth of color and 48% being transgender or nonbinary, our fourth annual national survey is one of the most diverse surveys of LGBTQ youth ever conducted,” Amit Paley, CEO and executive director for The Trevor Project said in the survey’s introductory letter. “These data provide critical insights into some of the unique suicide risk factors faced by LGBTQ youth, top barriers to mental health care, and the negative impacts of COVID-19 and relentless anti-transgender legislation. This research also highlights several ways in which we can all support the LGBTQ young people in our lives — and help prevent suicide.” 

The data reported in this survey was collected in a quantitative cross-sectional design method through an online survey platform. Between Sept. 20 and Dec. 31, 2021, a sample of LGBTQ youth were recruited through targeted social media ads. Each respondent answered a maximum of 143 questions.  

One of the most notable findings in this latest survey is the high suicide risk rates among LGBTQ youth. The survey found that nearly half (45%) of LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide in the past year. More than half of transgender and nonbinary youth and one in three cisgender youth have considered it. 

In the past year, 14% of LGBTQ youth have attempted to end their life, the same percentage found in The Trevor Project’s 2021 survey. Of the results found in the 2022 survey, a higher percentage of suicide attempts were found amongst racial minorities compared to white youth. Twenty-one percent of Native/Indigenous youth, 20% of Middle Eastern/Northern African youth and 19% of Black youth have attempted suicide in the past year, compared to 12% of white youth.   

Dr. Myeshia Price, senior research scientist for The Trevor Project, said, “Although our data continue to show high rates of mental health and suicide risk among LGBTQ young people, it is crucial to note that these rates vary widely based on the way LGBTQ youth are treated.” 

The Trevor Project surveyed respondents about specific “unique challenges” LGBTQ youth face, including physical violence, discrimination, and conversion therapy. LGBTQ youth who have experienced these types of anti-LGBTQ victimizations reported more than twice the rate of attempting suicide in the past year compared to those who have not endured these experiences. 

Paley said, “We must recognize that LGBTQ young people face stressors simply for being who they are that their peers never have to worry about.”

When it came to physical violence, 36% of LGBTQ youth reported that they have been physically threatened or harmed due to either their sexual orientation or gender identity. The highest rates of physical violence were seen in men who identify as gay (40%) and transgender boys/men (55%). 

Even more LGBTQ youth reported that they have experienced discrimination over physical violence. At least once in their lifetime, 73% of LGBTQ youth reported that they have experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity. 

As Paley mentioned, this year’s survey also highlighted the recent uptick in anti-LGBTQ legislation that has passed throughout the country, at both the state and local level. In response, The Trevor Project found transgender and nonbinary youth have a growing number of worries regarding gender affirmation and inclusion. 

In the past year, the majority of transgender and nonbinary youth, 93%, said that they have worried about transgender people being denied access to gender-affirming medical care due to state or local laws. More specifically, 91% of transgender and nonbinary youth said that they have worried about transgender people being denied access to the bathroom and 83% have worried about being denied the ability to play sports due to anti-LGBTQ legislation. 

Dr. Jonah DeChants, research scientist for The Trevor Project said, “Recent political attacks aimed at transgender and nonbinary youth have not only threatened their access to health care, support systems, and affirming spaces at school, they’ve also negatively impacted their mental health.”

Between 2020 and 2022, The Trevor Project’s survey has gauged the symptoms of anxiety and depression reported by LGBTQ youth. Through those years, symptoms of anxiety have been on a gradual incline, with 68% of LGBTQ youth reporting anxiety symptoms in 2020, 72% in 2021, and 73% in 2022. 

Like anxiety symptoms, depression symptoms reportedly spiked between 2020 and 2021, with 55% of LGBTQ youth reporting symptoms of depression in 2020 and 62% in 2021. However, in 2022’s survey, reported depression symptoms dropped to 58%. 

One factor possibly aiding these wavering spikes in reported poor mental health symptoms could be due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, something The Trevor Project touched on in this report and last years. In the 2022 report, 53% of LGBTQ youth reported that their mental health was poor most of the time or always due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This, however, is a significant decrease from 2021, where 70% of LGBTQ youth stated that their mental health was “poor” most of the time or always during COVID-19. 

This year’s National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, and those before, are filled with detailed research and comprehensive comparisons that have the ability to showcase trends in LGBTQ youth. Paley said he hopes the report gets heavy use from those with the power to promote change and progress. 

He said, “We hope these data and trends will be used by fellow researchers, policymakers, and youth-serving organizations to advance policies and practices that better support LGBTQ youth around the globe and work to end the public health crisis of suicide.”