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  • Writer's pictureJorge Petit

Advancing Hope for LGBTQ+ Youth

LGBTQ Pr

Last week, a new bill was introduced by House Democrats Sharice Davids, Eric Sorensen, and Ritchie Torres, called the "Pride in Mental Health Act." This is a significant legislative effort to address the mental health needs of LGBTQ+ youth, a group that is disproportionality marginalized and vulnerable. This bill aims to enhance mental health resources, establish school bullying prevention guidelines, and provide tailored training for caregivers. The act also focuses on improving data collection and conducting comprehensive studies to better understand the mental health landscape for LGBTQ+ youth, especially those in foster care and receiving federal social services.


In my post from last year: LGBTQ+ Health Equity: Youth, I highlighted the specific behavioral health challenges faced by LGBTQ+ youth, which resonates with the objectives of the Pride in Mental Health Act. I emphasized the need for specialized and accessible behavioral health services, acknowledging that LGBTQ+ youth are often at a higher risk of experiencing mental health crises, including thoughts of suicide and face serious challenges in accessing care. We obviously need to do more.


The behavioral health challenges faced by LGBTQ+ youth are also highlighted in the Trevor Project's 2023 National Survey on the Mental Health of LGBTQ Young People. This survey shows the many obstacles faced by LGBTQ+ youth and the significant levels of mental health distress among LGBTQ+ youth: 41% of participants reporting they seriously considered suicide in the past year. Alarmingly, these rates are even higher among transgender, nonbinary, and LGBTQ+ youth of color.  The survey also highlights the protective role of affirming environments. LGBTQ+ youth with access to supportive homes, schools, and communities generally report lower rates of suicidal ideation. Respect for pronouns and access to gender-neutral bathrooms significantly contributed to these lower rates among transgender and nonbinary youth. Sadly, less than half of LGBTQ+ youth found their school environments to be gender-affirming, which correlates with higher rates of mental health challenges.


This bill's introduction is timely, as it addresses both the immediate and long-term needs of at-risk LGBTQ+ youth by aiming to close the critical gaps in mental health support and protection highlighted in your piece. This legislative effort underscores the importance of community and legislative support to create a safer and more supportive environment for LGBTQ+ youth to thrive.


We must all continue to advocate strongly for more specific federal, state and local protections that build and strengthen affirming environments, which has been shown to significantly mitigate suicide risk and mental health distress. We also have to create a welcoming and inclusive healthcare system that is responsive to the unique behavioral health needs of LGBTQ+ individuals.


For a more detailed read on the bill, you can visit the official site: here.


Read more at my blog at: BH: Matters


RESOURCE:

For any behavioral health practitioner reading this, please check out SAMHSA LGBTQ+ Behavioral Health Equity Center of Excellence. The Center of Excellence on LGBTQ+ Behavioral Health Equity provides behavioral health practitioners with vital information on supporting the population of people identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, questioning, intersex, two-spirit, and other diverse sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions. Through training, coaching, and technical assistance they are implementing change strategies within mental health and substance use disorder treatment systems to address disparities effecting LGBTQ+ people across all stages of life.

 

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