Almost half of LGBTQ+ youth have considered suicide; Experts say school mental health resources are essential to reducing risk

LOS ANGELES (KABC) – It’s June, which means rainbow colors have taken the form of large corporate logos and the streets of Los Angeles’ historic LGBTQ+ communities are bustling with life.

The celebrations were earned over generations, but behind them today is a reality that’s not always easy to shine a spotlight on.

“I’m a lesbian 365 days a year. Not just in June. I have these things that I face 365 days a year,” said Caroline Menjivar, director of education and programs at GLSEN, a nonprofit organization trying to better educate K-12 schools to prevent LGBTQ+ bullying and harassment. It’s been around for 32 years.

Menjivar took a moment from her California State Senate race to speak to Eyewitness News on behalf of GLSEN.

“I think of little Caroline. You know, in my high school, I thought me and my two friends were the only ones gay in the universe,” she said.

Menjivar acknowledged the positive changes that have taken place around LGBTQ+ issues, such as B. More celebrations and representation in the media, but she said there was “still a lot to do”.

“When I started my work for GLSEN and visited different schools, a little girl asked me how I worked as a lesbian in local government. As if that was an obstacle for me to be in any kind of work. So that stays with me,” she said.

LGBTQ+ students have a higher risk of suicide

More recently, the numbers the GLSEN team have tried to reduce are staggering. LGBTQ teens are much more likely to engage with mental health issues than their straight or cissexual peers.

according to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention survey of high school studentstheir gay, lesbian, and bisexual peers are three times more likely to think about suicide than their straight peers and five times more likely to attempt suicide.

Another survey by The Trevor Project found that transgender and non-binary children were 1.6 times more likely to have thoughts of suicide compared to their lesbian, gay, and bisexual peers.

They’re twice as likely to try.


The same Trevor Project study found that 72% of LGBTQ+ youth reported symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder in the past two weeks and 62% of LGBTQ+ youth reported symptoms of major depressive disorder in the past two weeks.

“We have a higher authority of people, yes, who are open about mental health, which I applaud, please please please. But we also don’t provide our mental health therapists with the support to take on that extra burden,” Menjivar said.

LGBTQ+ youth may also find it difficult to access mental health care. According to The Trevor Project, nearly half of LGBTQ+ youth asked for counseling from a psychologist but did not receive it. This was most common among LGBTQ+ black youth.


School mental health professionals may not be adequately trained

Laura Ross, a Georgia school counselor, is campaigning for the cause.

Ross is part of the American School Counselor Association and was nationally recognized for her work as School Counselor of the Year 2020, the same year her work became as impossible and important as ever.

She said having mental health resources in school is essential, especially for LGBTQ+ students who may have nowhere else to turn.

“If you don’t have that at home or you’re scared that you won’t have that at home, then that means if you don’t have that at school, you’re not going to get it anywhere,” Ross said.

However, not all counselors have the training to help LGBTQ+ students.

GLSEN, in partnership with the American Council for Social Work, the American School Counselor Association, and the School Social Work Association of America, published a report in 2019 that found training for school-based mental health professionals may be lacking.

The study found that more than 7 in 10 people have received little to no skills training in working specifically with LGBTQ+ youth.

However, a higher percentage of mental health professionals in schools had professional development in this field. The study found that nearly two-thirds had received formal education or training on LGBTQ-specific student issues during their careers.

About 6 in 10 said they read LGBTQ-related research and literature or consulted with peers in their work with LGBTQ+ students in schools at least some of their careers.

“If I go to a school counseling conference, if there are sessions to support LGBTQ+ students, that’s where I will go,” Ross said. “I will find these resources and dig into GLSEN and welcome schools and everyone else to find out what avenues are known to support our LGBTQ+ students and I’m always looking for that.”

Ross advises anyone who wants to support LGBTQ+ kids to simply ask how and let them lead the way.

“We listen to our students and hear the students’ voices and empower their voices and they tell us what they need and what will be helpful to them. From LGBTQ+ students and also from their allies and what they saw,” Ross said.

And just as important as what they saw, Menjivar said, is what they didn’t see.

“We are seeing proud celebrations in these very affluent areas, which in reality are already gaining acceptance. We need more energy in areas that need representation. Where there are abuelitos, tias, grandparents who need to see there are queer people,” she said.

ALSO READ | Eyewitness Newsmakers discusses LA Pride 2022, challenges facing the LGBTQ+ community

Copyright © 2022 KABC Television, LLC. All rights reserved. Almost half of LGBTQ+ youth have considered suicide; Experts say school mental health resources are essential to reducing risk

Laura Coffey

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