Historically, LGBTQ+ youth experience higher mental health problems than that of their straight counterparts. Now a study is bringing those numbers to the surface in a new light.
Researchers at the University of California, San Francisco, sought out to compare mental health symptoms and psychosocial risk factors among three particular groups: Black and Latinx trans youth, white trans youth, and Black and Latinx cisgender youth.
In the analysis, which consisted of 19,780 teens from ninth to the 11th grade using data from the 2015-2017 Biennial California Healthy Kids Survey, mental health symptoms were considered depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts, whereas psychosocial risk factors included school-based bullying and harassment due to sexuality, gender, or race.
The data, published by JAMA Network Open, estimated that 50 percent of Black and Latinx transgender youth experience symptoms of depression and 46 percent have experienced suicidal thoughts. Those numbers were similar to white transgender youth, according to researchers. The two groups also had similar levels of victimization and caring adult relationships, but lower levels of school connectedness.
Compared to Black and Latinx cis youth, Black and Latinx trans youth had higher odds of depressive symptoms and suicidal thoughts, higher odds and levels of all forms of harassment and victimization, and lower levels of school connectedness and caring adult relationships.
“Black and Latinx transgender adults face a tremendous burden of poor outcomes, including high levels of depression and substance abuse and negative psychosocial experiences, including racial discrimination, transphobia and physical victimization,” Stanley Ray Vance Jr, MD, of the department of pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco, and colleagues wrote. “To our knowledge, the youth antecedents to these poor adult outcomes for Black and Latinx transgender individuals have not been elucidated.”
Furthermore, researchers say that the unique risk factors for mental health symptoms among Black and Latinx youth should be factored in clinical preventive services and school-based interventions to help support them.
“Organizations such as the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network recommend intersectional approaches in supporting Black and Latinx sexual minority and gender diverse youth,” Vance Jr. and his colleagues wrote. “These approaches include supporting student clubs, such as Gay Straight Alliance, and ethnic/cultural clubs collaborating to address their needs and professional development for school staff that addresses unique experiences of these youth. Pediatric and adolescent medicine clinicians should be involved in school-based efforts to address the unique needs of these youth. For example, they could provide in-service training referral resources for school staff and parent-teacher organizations.”
If you have or are contemplating suicide, please know there is a well of support out there to help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273-8255 can be reached 24 hours a day by people of all ages and identities. If you are a trans or gender-nonconforming person considering suicide, the Trans Lifeline can be reached at (877) 565-8860. The Trevor Project is the world's largest suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ+ youth (ages 24 and younger). Trained counselors at the Trevor Project Lifeline can be reached 24/7 at (866) 488-7386, by texting START to 678678, or via the TrevorChat instant messaging service at TheTrevorProject.org/Help.