01 Aug Results from The Trevor Project 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health
The Trevor Project is one of this nation’s foremost non-profit organizations focusing on the mental health of the LGBTQ community. Since 1998, The Trevor Project has sought to help LGBTQ individuals through their work in crisis intervention, peer support, advocacy, research, and public education.
In addition to running the largest LGBTQ-focused suicide prevention and crisis intervention campaign in the United States, The Trevor Project also helps this community by providing an ongoing source of data that creates awareness about their mental health challenges. 2022 marks the fourth year they have released their National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health.
This year, almost 34,000 American LGBTQ teens and youth between the ages of 13 and 24 offered responses to this annual survey. Of that number, 45% were LGBTQ youth of color, making this one of the largest and most diverse surveys among the young LGBTQ community that has ever conducted. In addition, 48% of survey respondents identified as either nonbinary or transgender.
Targeted ads on independent social media channels were used to attract survey respondents. These ads, which were not placed on any of The Trevor Project’s social media channels, were intended to recruit a diverse sample audience representative of geography, gender identity, race, and ethnicity. Overall, the survey demographics were split by sexual orientation in the following ways:
- 1% Straight or heterosexual
- 12% Gay
- 13% Lesbian
- 31% Bisexual
- 20% Pansexual
- 10% Queer
- 4% Questioning
- 9% Asexual
The Negative Impact of COVID on LGBTQ Mental Health
Using a similar approach to their 2021 survey, the Trevor Project took time to evaluate how the COVID-19 pandemic impacted LGBTQ mental health in 2022. They found that 56% of LGBTQ youth reported poor mental health either “most of the time” or “always” throughout the pandemic.
COVID-19 has affected many aspects of peoples’ daily lives, including the loss of regular routines like school and work. It’s easy to see the correlation between this ongoing stress and increasing symptoms of mental health concerns like depression, anxiety, and suicide. Additionally, many members of the LGBTQ community have lost family and friends, with 24% of Middle Eastern and North African respondents, and 25% of Latinx respondents reporting the death of at least one close family member or friend due to COVID-19.
Impacts of Ongoing Anti-Transgender Legislation on LGBTQ Mental Health
Another ongoing issue that has become particularly resonant for members of the LGBTQ community is the growing movement of anti-transgender legislation being pushed by politicians across the country.
93% of transgender and nonbinary survey respondents reported worrying about “transgender people being denied access to gender-affirming medical care due to state or local laws.” Additionally, 91% said they feared being denied access to their bathroom of choice by the same discriminatory laws. This ongoing fear and stress understandably impacts an LGBTQ individual’s mental health in a negative way.
The longer this institutionalized discrimination continues, the more it will negatively affect the mental health of the LGBTQ community. In the future, we could see rates of transgender and nonbinary youth who have experienced discrimination higher than their already unacceptable levels of 86% for transgender boys and men, and 77% for transgender girls and women.
Factors Affecting Suicide Risk Among LGBTQ Youth
LGBTQ youth are not inherently prone to suicide risk because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Instead, they are placed at higher risk because of how they are mistreated and stigmatized in society. According to the study, an astonishing 45% of LGBTQ youth considered committing suicide in the past year. When considering only transgender and nonbinary youth that percentage climbs to 53%.
Working to prevent suicide and address suicidal ideation is an essential consideration for all clinicians working with LGBTQ clients. There are a variety of factors that affect suicide risk for the community, including:
- Community acceptance. LGBTQ youth who live in accepting communities report significantly lower rates of suicide attempts compared to their peers who live in less accepting areas.
- Support from family. Respondents who felt high social support from their family were less than half as likely to attempt suicide as those who had only low to moderate support.
- Age. Suicidal ideation and suicide attempts declined among older respondents. 18% of LGBTQ youth aged 13-17 and 8% of those aged 18-24 reported attempting suicide in the past year. In 2021, those figures were 20% for youth ages 13-17 and 9% for LGBTQ individuals aged 18-24.
- Gender identity. 59% of transgender boys and men reported considering suicide in the past year, compared to just 28% of cisgender boys and men, according to the 2022 study.
- Race and ethnicity. Native/Indigenous, Black, Middle Eastern/North African, and multi-racial survey respondents were among the most likely to consider suicide.
Trends in Risks for Anxiety and Depression Among the LGBTQ Community
Over the last three years, reported symptoms of both anxiety and depression have generally been on the rise. However, when compared to survey results released in 2021, there are a few changing trends clinicians should note.
Symptoms of anxiety went up 1% compared to last year, going from 72% to 73% of overall respondents. However, depression symptoms were down by 4%. This decline in depression symptoms, combined with the fact that suicide rates were down 1% compared to 2020, shows that these mental health concerns may be trending in the right direction.
Key Insights and Takeaways
Despite there being some positive news in the lower rates of depression reported by respondents in the 2022 survey, this survey shows how much further we have to go to ensure LGBTQ youth have access to the care they so desperately need.
40% of LGBTQ youth who want mental health care do not receive it. Primarily, they cited reasons like being afraid of discussing their mental health (48%), concerns around obtaining permission from a parent or guardian (45%), and lack of affordability (41%). Other reasons cited include a fear of not being taken seriously, a fear of care not working, the risk of being outed, a fear of their identity being misunderstood, concerns about receiving virtual care at home, and a lack of transportation.
While The Trevor Project and other non-profit organizations are adept at providing crisis care, so many of the issues laid bare in this report would vastly improve if the respondents were able to receive compassionate mental health care regularly. Study after study has shown that therapy and other forms of mental health care can benefit those experiencing symptoms of anxiety and depression.
As Amit Paley, CEO & Executive Director at The Trevor Project says, “We must recognize that LGBTQ young people face stressors simply for being who they are that their peers never have to worry about.”
The more clinicians can open their practices to members of the LGBTQ community (especially those experiencing challenges like discrimination and violence at a young age), the easier it will be for them to receive the care and resources they need to grow into strong, confident, and healthy adults.
Thankfully, there are so many resources available to LGBTQ individuals that make them feel welcome and supported. Here are just a few that we love:
Q Chat Space: A safe online community for LGBTQ teens.
Advancing Effective Communication, Cultural Competence, and Patient- and Family-Centered Care for the LGBTQ Community
Special Note: The Trevor Project offers trained counselors who offer support 24/7. If you are a young person in crisis, feeling suicidal, or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, call the TrevorLifeline at 1-866-488-7386. You may also Text START to 678-678.