How to Improve Mental Health Care for LGBT Youth: Recommendations for the Department of Health and Human Services

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Center for American Progress

This paper shows that despite the recently highly publicized suicides of gay teens, their deaths do not mark a new trend in the LGBT community: Disproportionately high rates of suicide in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth have been underreported for decades. The Center for American Progress reported that 85 percent of LGBT teens experienced being verbally harassed at school because of their sexual orientation, according to a 2009 survey of middle and high school students.

Stress factors that affect LGBT teens include not just bullying, but also fear of rejection from family members and anti-LGBT messages in places of worship and the media.

The Center for American Progress reported that studies have shown LGBT youth are up to 40 percent more likely to commit suicide.

According to this paper, the lack of mental health care for LGBT teens may be associated with their treatment by primary care providers who cannot always ascertain the severity of the teens’ mental health concerns. The lack of LGBT-specific training, general information about LGBT youths and financial incentives to treat LGBT youth keep the mental health problems of many teens undiscovered.  According to the report, young adults wait an average of more than seven years before seeking treatment.

The center makes recommendations to alleviate these problems, including: providing better transportation for youth to reach mental health providers, training doctors and other health providers to recognize and treat the problems of LGBT parents, passing laws that permit minors to seek treatment without telling their parents and establishing ways to reimburse medical personnel for mental health screenings and treatment.

Free. 11 pages. www.americanprogress.org/issues/2010/12/mental_health_lgbt_youth.html.