A recent study by the federal government’s Youth Risk Behavior Survey shows that LGBT Youth on average are more vulnerable to mental illness and violence. Surveys are not 100% accurate but the reality that lies behind these numbers are not surprising.
According to the data, more than 40 percent of these students reported that they had seriously considered suicide, and 29 percent had made attempts to do so in the year before they took the survey. It also shows that LGBT youth are using drugs at a larger rate than their straight peers.
Moreover, the report also implies that in schools and public spaces there is a deafening silence surrounding adolescent sexuality and gay-related victimization that acts as a barrier, preventing these youth from accessing treatment or getting help. Some cases may go untreated and in other cases there is a misunderstanding of the circumstances of mental illness among LGBT youth.
These numbers are basic indicators of some of the everyday events that ensues in the life of an LGBT youth. Being bullied, abused and assaulted at a young age; figuring out your identity; coming to the reality that you have to live with who you are; having to come out to family and friends; coming out and not being accepted; being kicked out of your home; going homeless; the uphill battle to finding a community; finding support and getting to a safe space.
Quite frankly, as a youth there are a plethora of challenges that comes with growing up but its even harder figuring out your sexuality and your identity. You find yourself in an abyss of misery, trying to figure out your place in society and legitimizing who you are.
Social norms have a way of dictating that you are not normal, you have to fight to get married, to get an education and to simply be recognized with basic human rights. And on the far side, as a youth growing up LGBT, you are looking at this as a test that you don’t want to face or at least a reality that you hope will change. But, in your own world, in your home, there is just no sympathy, no guidance and no set path that will help you to live through the daunting effects of trauma and irrecoverable rejection.
One important message from the report comes from the University of Pittsburgh school of Medicine, Dr. Miller, she said that self acceptance can begin at home. What if home was the place to have healthy relationships with relatives and where LGBT youth are able to talk about their sexuality and identity? And what if school was just another place to make friends and make the most of your academic experience without intimidation or fear. What if they didn’t have to come out?
Poor mental health is not human culture and it is definitely not LGBT culture – its the reality forced upon many to believe that they cannot seek help because they should be afraid to speak about who they are or what they are going through. Its the stigma that implies that you are weak or soft if you fall victim to mental illness. And its the reality that manifest itself in societies where LGBT youth are deprived of their basic human rights and dignity.
LGBT youth are vulnerable, they are at risk of violence and victimization, they are homeless, they are suicidal… this is not meant to be a distraction, these heartbreaking numbers are a call for Help!