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LGBTQ Youth Face Mental Health Challenges: Social Support and Safe Spaces Make a Difference 

  • September 08, 2021
  • LGBTQ+, Patients and Families

More than four in 10 LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide in the past year, according to The Trevor Project’s third annual survey out last May. Meanwhile, nearly half (46%) of LGBTQ youth reported wanting psychological or emotional counseling from a mental health professional but were unable to receive it in.

The study reports on the experiences of more than 34,000 LGBTQ youth ages 13-24 across the U.S. in late 2020. It highlights the extent of mental health needs among LGBTQ youth and identifies sources of support that can be critical in protecting their mental health and well-being.

About one in eight LGBTQ youth reported being subjected to conversion therapy and these youth had more than twice the rate of suicide attempts compared to others.

Pandemic impact

Layered on top of ongoing circumstances were the stresses and challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, including isolation and, possibly from supportive communities. More than 80% of LGBTQ youth reported that COVID-19 made their living situation more stressful and almost half said the pandemic made it more difficult to express their sexual orientation. Only one in three LGBTQ youth found their home to be LGBTQ-affirming. More than 70% of the LGBTQ youth reported symptoms of anxiety disorder in the previous two weeks and more than 60% reported symptoms of depression. About 30% of LGBTQ youth experienced food insecurity in the prior month.

For LGBTQ youth of color, the heightened racial tensions and focus on racial injustice added yet another potential source of stress and trauma.

LGBTQ youth generally also reported experiences of discrimination. Three in four experienced discrimination based on their sexual orientation or gender identity at least once in their lifetime. Half of LGBTQ youth of color reported discrimination based on their race/ethnicity in the past year.

Protective Factors: Social Support and Safe Spaces

The Trevor Project data also highlight the protective effects of social support and safe spaces on the mental health and well-being of LGBTQ youth.

  • LGBTQ youth who had access to spaces that affirmed their sexual orientation and gender identity reported lower rates of attempting suicide.
  • LGBTQ youth who did not have to worry about having enough to eat were less likely to attempt suicide.
  • Transgender and nonbinary youth who reported having pronouns respected by all of the people they lived with attempted suicide at half the rate of those who did not have their pronouns respected by anyone with whom they lived.
  • 70% of transgender and nonbinary youth report accessing gender-affirming spaces online; 47% at school; and at 33% at home.

The youth acknowledged both the potential benefits and potential harms from social media. The vast majority of LGBTQ youth reported that social media had both a positive and negative impact on their mental health and well-being.

LGBTQ allies, including not only family members but also teachers, coaches and celebrities, can positively impact the mental well-being of LGBTQ youth. In The Trevor Project’s 2020 survey, more than 80% of youth said that celebrities who are LGBTQ positively impact how they feel about being LGBTQ.

If you or someone you know is feeling hopeless or suicidal, you can contact The Trevor Project's Trevor Lifeline 24/7 at 1-866-488-7386. Help is also available 24/7 via chat at, or by texting START to 678678.

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