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Five Ways to Support LGBTQ+ Mental Health

  • June 26, 2023
  • LGBTQ+, Patients and Families, Public awareness

Family and friends can play a valuable role in supporting the mental health and well-being of LGBTQ+ individuals. LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely than others to experience mental health challenges.

Group of youth with pride flag

Sexual minority individuals (lesbian/gay and bisexual) are more likely than straight individuals to have had any mental illness in the past year and more than twice as likely to have had a serious mental illness, according to a new government report. Sexual minority males and female adults were more than twice as likely as straight males and females to have had serious thoughts of suicide or to have attempted suicide.

Among LGBTQ+ young people, more than 40% seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, according to the latest national survey from the Trevor Project. Young people who are transgender, nonbinary, and/or people of color reported higher rates than their peers.

A supportive and welcoming environment can make a big difference. For example, LGBTQ+ young people who had access to affirming homes, schools, communities and online spaces reported lower rates of attempting suicide compared to those who did not, according to the Trevor Project report. Affirming gender identity among transgender and nonbinary young people is also associated with lower rates of attempting suicide. New research out of the University of Texas at Austin found that LGBTQ+ youth who had strong support from parents and guardians experienced fewer depressive symptoms, compared to those treated more negatively.

Tips For Providing Support

Here is how to provide mental health support to LGBTQ+ people:

  • Learn about LGBTQ+ issues and mental health warning signs: Take the time to understand LGBTQ+ identities, experiences, and challenges. Educate yourself about the warning signs of mental illness.
  • Listen actively and with compassion: Communicate openly and listen to their experiences, feelings, and concerns without judgment. Let them know they are heard and supported. Let them know you are there for them — offer unconditional support. Consider your own assumptions and biases.
  • Respect their identity: Respect the identity of LGBTQ+ people in your life; affirm how they choose to live and use their chosen gender pronouns.
  • Help create a safe and accepting environment: Foster an atmosphere of acceptance, love, and support within your family or social circle. Help to educate and inform others.
  • Support their access to mental health resources when needed: Connect them to supportive networks, social groups or mentors in the LGBTQ+ community. If you see signs of distress, reach out to offer help and support. Help them connect to LGBTQ+-friendly mental health resources.

Supporting LGBTQ+ Children and Youth

Here are a few additional suggestions for supporting LGBTQ+ children and youth drawn from the work of the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University and the Child Mind Institute.

  •  When it comes to telling other family members, let your child take the lead. Ask your child if and how you can help them tell other people about their LGBTQ+ identity.
  • Connect your child with LGBTQ+ adult role models.
  • Believe that our child can be a happy LGBTQ+ adult and try to stay positive around your child.
  • Stand up for your child when others mistreat them because of their LGBTQ+ identity or gender expression – at home, at school, and in the community.
  • Most importantly, make sure they know their family supports and loves them.

For children and adults, it’s important to try to stay open as their needs change and evolve and continue to educate yourself. The strong support of family and friends can make a significant difference in the mental health and well-being of LGBTQ+ individuals.




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