LGBTQ + students face ‘significant’ disparities in mental health

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LGBTQ + students face “significant” mental health issues compared to their heterosexual and cisgender peers, according to a new report from the Proud & Thriving Project.

The study found that LGBTQ + students experience a higher incidence of substance abuse, depression, suicidal ideation, and school and extracurricular disengagement than their non-LGBTQ + peers.

The Proud & Thriving Project, a collaboration between the Jed Foundation, the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals and other groups, interviewed 907 high school and college students – 602 LGBTQ + and 305 non-LGBTQ + – with college students academics representing two-thirds of the participants. The group separately interviewed 194 councilors and administrators from colleges, high schools and colleges.

Among students surveyed, 83% of LGBTQ + students said they had experienced stress in the past six months, compared to 71% of non-LGBTQ + students. Sixty-seven percent of LGBTQ + students reported feeling lonely or isolated, and 55 percent expressed feelings of hopelessness, compared to 49 percent and 35 percent of non-LGBTQ + students, respectively.

The pandemic has only exacerbated these discrepancies, according to the report. Almost all of the counselors and administrators interviewed said COVID-19 worsened symptoms of depression, anxiety, loneliness and difficulty coping with stress among LGBTQ + students. Eighty-six percent cited anxiety as the most common problem among the LGBTQ + students they served in the past six months, 84 percent cited depression, and 75 percent cited “concerns. family ”- including fear of going out and acceptance of their identity – as the biggest concern of their LGBTQ + students.

Sofia Pertuz, senior advisor at the Jed Foundation, noted that some LGBTQ + students who returned home during the pandemic struggled to find a private space to talk about their mental health issues – especially if they weren’t with their families. Additionally, some LGBTQ + students who did not have health insurance were unable to access outside mental health practitioners for the services they received in person from their institutions, which particularly affected LGBTQ + students. of BIPOC.

“Colleges, in particular, were safe havens for many LGBTQ + students because they found LGBTQ + centers for schools that had them, or they had designated roles, or they had a diversity and inclusion office. where they felt like someone was trying to help, ”Pertuz said.

Certainly, where LGBTQ + students attend college has a huge impact on their experience. Half of the students surveyed said their high school, college or university is a prominent space for LGBTQ + affirmation. But the report found that students in states that lack protections for LGBTQ + people experienced additional stress and felt less supported by their institutions.

The report comes as Campus Pride, a non-profit organization that aims to create a safer college environment for the LGBTQ + community, released its annual list of the worst campuses for LGBTQ + students. The list of nearly 200 institutions, most of which are affiliated with religion, includes Brigham Young University, Malone University, College of the Ozarks, and Lee University.

In September, a group of alumni from Lee, a Christian institution in Tennessee, spoke out against an amendment to the university’s student manual that excludes the words “gender” and “gender identity” from its statement. anti-discrimination policy. “Cross-dressing” on campus and “homosexual sexual behavior” are also prohibited, according to the manual.

The report found that risk factors for transgender and non-binary students include gender-segregated facilities, including toilets, locker rooms, and living quarters, and the inability to put chosen names and pronouns into school systems. student information. At St. Mary’s College, students staged a sit-in last week in part because of the institution’s heavy renaming policy.

Pertuz said one of the worst things institutions can do to LGBTQ + students is ignore their favorite pronouns and gender identities.

“When students have to continually remind people what their pronouns are and how important it is, and people look down on it… I think it’s really harmful,” Pertuz said. “Because I think they don’t just reject someone for who they are, they don’t even show they’re trying to help.”

Pertuz said one of the report’s key findings is that while institutions want every student to be successful, some are misinformed or have mistaken beliefs about how to help LGBTQ + students.

“If you really believe you want to support LGBTQ + youth, then you may need to consider for a moment putting your personal conviction aside to really see who is in front of you,” Pertuz said. “Get the training, knowledge and information that would truly serve the LGBTQ + student body without worrying about morals and what is wrong and what is right. “

According to the report, LGBTQ + students want their institutions to have a clear process for reporting, responding to and remedying victimization, and establishing non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation, gender identity and gender expression. Institutions should also provide LGBTQ + focused training and education to students, faculty, staff, coaches, administrators and board members and offer targeted services, university programs and residential communities for LGBTQ + students.

Specifically for higher education, the report recommends encouraging all students to familiarize themselves with LGBTQ + resources on campus. He suggests using an incentive like a gift card or campus bookstore credit to get students to visit their institution’s LGBTQ + office. “Familiarizing students with the resources available to them may very well increase the likelihood that they will refer to them when needed,” the report says.

Pertuz said there is a misconception that because LGBTQ + people have more visibility in society, they are generally safer. She pointed to an increase in anti-transgender legislation.

“When you look at current legislation, school policies and the attention to how to change structures – gender-neutral facilities, gender-neutral language on websites, gender-neutral housing – all of this happens very slowly,” a- she said.


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