LGBT Youth and Mental Health


Table of Contents

In 2015, many people celebrated as a landmark Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage in the United States. While this was an important step for inclusion, many LGBT youths continue to struggle with mental health issues and inclusion in their local communities. 

According to a 2022 survey by The Trevor Project, 45 percent of youths in the LGBT community considered suicide in the past 12 months. and 60 percent of youths who wanted mental health services were unable to get them. Some of these teens went to schools that were LGBT-affirming, and they reported a lower incidence of suicidal thoughts. 

Families with LGBT youth need to make sure that their teen is receiving the mental health care they need to survive and thrive. Acceptance alone is important but it isn’t always enough. This article takes a look at the subject of LGBT youth and mental health. 

Mental Health Among LGBT Youth

Almost all youths struggle to find out who they are and to fit in with their peers. However, LGBT youth face even more barriers and suffer from mental health issues from depression to anxiety, and it’s clear by looking at the statistics that this struggle is real. 

Here’s a look at some of the important statistics from a 2015 study surrounding LGBT youths provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

  • 34 percent of LGB students reported bullying on their school campuses
  • 28 percent of LGB youth reported electronic bullying, such as online or through email
  • 10 percent of these students were injured by weapons or threatened with them on school grounds
  • 18 percent of LGB students experienced physical violence on a date and the same number experienced sexual assault at some point in their lives
  • LGB students were 150 times more likely to skip a day of school in any 30 day period due to the fear of violence

These statistics show that LGBT struggle with issues that some of their straight and cisgender peers do not. This can lead to mental health issues among LGBT youth. Some of the most common mental health struggles include:

  • Depression
  • Suicidal thoughts and actions
  • Anxiety
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)

Of course, LGBT youth aren’t the only youth struggling with mental health issues, but they experience higher instances of bullying and violence that can exacerbate the issues or create them. They may also face intense fear of family rejection, or in some cases actual family rejection. These emotions can lead young people to be at risk for mental health conditions. If the parent of an LGBT youth suspects mental health issues, it’s essential that they help their child seek professional care and therapy to help them deal with their issues. 

Substance Abuse

Many times, mental health issues and substance abuse problems go hand-in-hand. This is considered a co-occurring diagnosis. The person will use drugs or alcohol to self-medicate and help themselves feel better. Substance use disorder is a behavioral health disorder that typically requires treatment. 

According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, LGBT youths are more than three times more likely to use and abuse illegal drugs, especially if they don’t find the emotional support they need in their homes and within their homes, family, and extended family members. Many substances might be abused, including:

  • Alcohol
  • Marijuana
  • Stimulants, such as Adderall
  • Prescription opioid painkillers
  • Tranquilizers
  • Sedative
  • Hallucinogens
  • Ecstasy

Sometimes, parents and loved ones of an LGBT youth wonder if their youth is struggling with a substance abuse problem. It’s a difficult conversation for a parent to have with a child, and many parents doubt the truthfulness of their youth’s answers concerning substance usage. 

Parents can rely on some of the signs and symptoms of substance abuse, and these might include:

  • Lying and deceptive behavior
  • Bloodshot eyes
  • Enlarged or small pupils
  • Unusual smells on the body and clothing
  • Changes in relationships
  • Blackouts
  • Mood swings
  • Acting fearful or paranoid
  • Increased or decreased activity levels
  • Changes in attitude or behavior
  • Changes in friends and activities
  • Weight loss or weight gain
  • Tremors
  • Runny nose
  • Changes in sleep patterns

The specific signs and symptoms of a substance abuse problem will depend on the drug or alcohol being abused. If a parent or loved one thinks an LGBT youth is struggling with addiction, it’s always best to seek professional help and an evaluation. 

Suicidal Ideations and Steps for Prevention

It’s important to note that LGBT youths aren’t more prone to suicidal ideations because of their sexual identities. Instead, the increased risk comes from their alienation from peer groups and family members, and sometimes, from extending periods of bullying. 

According to the Trevor Project, LGBT youths are four times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers. Each year, 1.8 million LGBT youths consider suicide a serious option, and every 45 seconds, one attempts suicide. 

It’s a serious issue, and parents, friends, and family members of LGBT youths need to know and recognize the signs that their loved one might be contemplating suicide. Some of these signs might include:

  • Recent stressful event
  • Mental health issues
  • History of suicide and suicide attempts for the person and family
  • A recent incident of bullying or violence
  • Displays feelings of hopelessness
  • Talks about being a burden to family and friends
  • Isolating themselves from friends and families
  • Ceases to take part in normal activities
  • Always tired
  • Calling people to say goodbye
  • Gives away their most prized items

A person contemplating suicide might display all of these symptoms or none of them. If a parent or other person suspects that an LGBT youth or anyone is considering suicide, it’s always best to act immediately. Steps to take include:

  • Talk to that person in a private, quiet location
  • Take them seriously if they say they are considering suicide
  • Seek professional help

Suicide prevention is important for LGBT youth who may be struggling with anything from identity to bullying. Because of their unique challenges, LGBT populations may be at greater risk for committing suicide or having ideations. It is important to know that not everyone who considers suicide attempts. However, it’s essential that the person receive professional therapy and an evaluation immediately. 


Many LGBT youths struggle with higher rates of mental health and addiction issues. These youth require therapy and treatment to find acceptance in themselves and to develop the tools necessary to live a healthy, positive life. 

At Steps For Change, we offer the therapy and counseling services that LGBT youth and their family need to thrive. Reach out to us today to learn more.