New Report Shines Spotlight on Mental Health Needs in LGBTQ Community; Majority of LGBTQ who take MHA Screen Report Suicidal Ideation, Thoughts of Harming Themselves

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Mental Health America (MHA), the nation’s leading community-based nonprofit dedicated to addressing the needs of those living with mental illness and to promoting the overall mental health of all Americans, releases a new report that highlights a growing need to address the mental health concerns of those who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning (LGBTQ). Data shows LGBTQ youth are resilient and thrive in the face of adversity, but are also at particular risk for experiencing stress, shame, fear, discrimination and adverse events that increase their risk of experiencing mental health conditions.

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The findings indicate a need for better and more alternatives to traditional clinical treatment for the LGBTQ community. MHA will continue to work with the LGBTQ partners to ensure that everyone who wants it can receive necessary, appropriate, and timely mental health support.

Mental Health America (MHA) released today a new report, "LGBTQ+ Mental Health: Insights from MHA Screening" that highlights a growing need to address the mental health concerns of those who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning (LGBTQ).

LGBTQ face challenges in discrimination and adverse effects that increase their risk for experiencing stress, shame, and fear that can lead to mental health conditions. For example, LGBTQ youth are more likely than non-LGBTQ youth to have experienced universal risk factors for disrupting youth mental health, including conflict with parents and substance use.

MHA supports over 1 million individuals annually through its Online Screening Program. Among the people that come to MHA’s Screening Program, 26 percent of individuals identify as LGBTQ. Results from LGBTQ screeners were collected across the nine mental health screens available, and across all 50 states and the District of Columbia. This report is an analysis of the results from screeners who self-identified as LGBTQ. In collaboration with partners at Human Rights Campaign Foundation, The Trevor Project, and Dr. Stephen Russell of the University of Texas at Austin, MHA has combined findings from our research with program and policy recommendations to improve the mental health system for the LGBTQ community.

“MHA understands that mental health issues may need to be addressed with a unique lens when working with individuals and families with diverse values, beliefs, and sexual orientations,” said Paul Gionfriddo, president and CEO, MHA. “It’s vitally important to continue to collect this data so we can better understand the needs of the LGBTQ population – and to listen to them when they are asking for help.”

The findings showed that:

  • LGBTQ youth are resilient and thrive in the face of adversity, but they are also at particular risk for experiencing stress, shame, fear, discrimination and adverse events that increase their risk of experiencing mental health conditions.
  • 54 percent were youth ages 11-17. Eighty-six percent of LGBTQ youth scored positive or moderate to severe for a mental health condition, the highest rate of all age groups of LGBTQ individuals.
  • Half of LGBTQ screeners reported that they were having suicidal ideation or thoughts of harming themselves. That was nearly 20 percent higher than non-LGBTQ screeners.
  • LGBTQ screeners were most likely to take an Eating Disorder screen. They were also more likely to screen at risk for nearly every mental health condition, with the largest differences (LGBTQ scoring much higher) in Psychosis, Depression, and Bipolar.
  • Screeners who identified as transgender were most likely to screen positive or moderate to severe for a mental health condition (89 percent), and young transgender screeners ages 11-17 were most at risk.

Collaborator Dr. Stephen Russell commented, “This is such important new data from Mental Health America. The findings show that LGBTQ people are concerned about their mental health: they are more likely to seek out mental health screening online. Yet they are less likely to take action based on the results. This new report highlights the urgent need to create mental health services that move beyond anonymous screening for populations in need.”

"The Trevor Project commends MHA on its LGBTQ+ Mental Health report, which highlights the continued need for collecting sexual orientation and gender identity data to better understand and serve LGBTQ populations," said Amy E. Green, PhD, Director of Research for The Trevor Project, the world's largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ youth. "Health care should be easily accessible to all youth, including LGBTQ-affirming mental health services, enabling LGBTQ youth to find the clinical support that they need and deserve."

Said Ellen Kahn, Director of the Children, Youth & Families Program at the Human Rights Campaign Foundation: "We are grateful to Mental Health America for their commitment to LGBTQ-inclusion; this report reflects the important work they are doing to ensure that LGBTQ people have the same access to education and support with regard to mental health and well-being."

The report highlights that disparities in poor mental health persist among LGBTQ youth despite societal and legal changes to improve conditions for the LGBTQ population. Given that this population is at greater risk of mental health conditions, it is important that appropriate mental health services and treatments be made available as soon as possible, and more importantly, in spaces that are most likely to intersect with youth.

Unfortunately, LGBTQ screeners were also most likely to report that they did not want to take any action after screening and were less likely to indicate that they wanted to find treatment than their non-LGBTQ counterparts. The findings indicate a need for better and more alternatives to traditional clinical treatment for the LGBTQ community. MHA will continue to work with the LGBTQ partners to ensure that everyone who wants it can receive necessary, appropriate, and timely mental health support.

To review the full report, click here.

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Erin Wallace
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