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Suicidal thoughts, other mental health struggles still high for LGBTQ adolescents Educational

For 24-year-old Mia Soza, going home was not an option. Soza moved to Nashville earlier this year. She quit her job in a flower shop when the stress of dealing with racist customers grew too great. It was difficult to live in a new city; The pandemic and unemployment have only increased the pressure.

Mia Soza (Courtesy of Mia Soza)

Soza says she didn’t meet anyone in Nashville she could identify with because she was “weird and brown.”

“I’m very unstable right now,” says Soza. “I’m lucky enough to live with friends. But I don’t get support from my parents, mainly because they don’t really accept me because of my identity. They are Trump supporters and also Latino.”

This assessment is also reflected in the survey results: 86% of LGBTQ adolescents said that recent policies had a negative impact on their well-being, compared to 76% in the previous year.

While it is “liberating to feel the comfort of knowing” who she is, Soza says that she feels that many things have not changed since her middle and high school days. “I feel very much like this child, there is nobody I can talk to.”

The survey found that 46% of LGBTQ adolescents said they sought advice from a psychologist but had not received it in the past 12 months. The biggest obstacles were affordability and parental permission.

Non-acceptance by family members can also affect mental health. Six out of ten LGBTQ adolescents said that someone – a relative, religious leader – tried to convince them to change their sexuality or gender.

But even those who live in an accepting family face challenges.

Madison Hall was laid off from work in February and had plans to go home in March to visit her parents. But her two-week stay became several months due to the pandemic. The 23-year-old says it’s the longest time she’s had with her parents since she came to them as a transsexual.

Hall says her parents always confirmed. Still, she says, she still wasn’t comfortable when she moved back in. She characterizes the process as a “confidence exercise” that requires a lot of back and forth.

Madison Hall (Courtesy of Madison Hall)

“Yes, I am her daughter and her child, but these childhood ties are not necessarily there,” Hall says of her mother. “She wants to be let in and I have to let my parents in. I think that’s probably a good metaphor for the transition in general for me. It lets her know little by little until we’re on the same page.”

The time together improves Hall’s relationship with her parents, and she says it has had a positive impact on her mental health.

Amit Paley, CEO of The Trevor Project, says that an affirmative adult can have a huge impact on LGBTQ youth.

“We have seen LGBTQ adolescents who have an accepting adult in their life attempt 40% fewer suicides, which has a huge impact from a public health perspective,” he said during an interview with NPR.

Rhys Hilicki (Courtesy of Rhys Hilicki)

Rhys Hilicki, 17, also has supportive parents. When he came to them as a trans two years ago, Hilicki said they almost immediately called him by his real name and pronoun.

“They remind me to take my medicine and testosterone injections. They helped me with my transition and helped me financially,” he says. “And they really helped me get out of my shell.”

Hilicki says knowing that his parents see him helps with his depression and anxiety.

Such feelings are common among LGBTQ adolescents: 68% of respondents said they had had generalized anxiety disorder at the time of the survey in the past two weeks, including more than three in four transgender and non-binary adolescents.

Paley hopes the survey results will help improve efforts to improve the mental health of the community.

“The reason why they’re exposed to these increased suicide risks isn’t because there’s something inherently wrong with LGBTQ people,” he says. “The reason why they face these negative results is because of the discrimination and bias that exists in society today.”

The survey found that one in three LGBTQ adolescents reported having been physically threatened or injured in their lives due to their LGBTQ identity. Paley says support from parents and guardians can save lives.

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