Social Distancing during Pandemic Affects Mental Health, Especially in the LGBTQIA+ Population

June 2, 2020

LGBTQIA+ Awareness: June is LGBTQIA+ Pride Month

MERCERVILLE - The COVID-19 pandemic has had a significant impact on the mental health of many people and adolescents are no exception, especially for those who are part of the Lesbian-Gay-Bisexual-Transgender-Queer-Questioning-Intersex-Asexual-Plus (LGBTQIA+) Community. Apart from COVID-19, this particular group of individuals suffers from higher rates of sometimes debilitating mental health issues and suicide risk, compared to their non-LGBTQIA+ peers. According to a 2019 national survey from The Trevor Project, a nonprofit organization, 39 percent of LGBTQIA+ youth seriously contemplated attempting suicide with half of the percentage being transgender and non-binary youth. Additionally, 71 percent of surveyed LGBTQIA+ youth stated that they had felt sad or hopeless for a minimum of two weeks over the course of 2019. One can only expect these statistics to increase due to self-isolation and social distancing during the pandemic.

Mental health issues can continue to impact LGBTQIA+ people into their adult lives. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration's 2015 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, one in three LGBTQIA+ adults experienced mental illness. The survey also found that 15 percent of LGBTQIA+ adults had a substance use disorder (SUD). The Task Force's "Injustice at Every Turn: A Report of the National Transgender Discrimination" survey found that 41 percent of black transgender respondents experienced homelessness, which is five times higher than the general U.S. population. These statistics are largely driven by the stigma that the members of this community face. Stigma about being part of the LGBTQIA+ population can impact an individual's income, increase stress levels which negatively impact a person's health and limit their access to high quality health care.

"The stigma faced by the LGBTQIA+ community can impact their mental wellbeing and increase the risk of substance use. The additional stigma about these health issues means many individuals from this population will likely not seek care and, as a result, their health conditions will determinate and increase the risk of suicide. It is important to ensure that these individuals have resources to assist in them, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when isolation from their support networks could further increase their risk," said Debra L. Wentz, Ph.D., President and CEO of New Jersey Association of Mental Health and Addiction Agencies.

June is known as LGBT Pride Month. While this month is associated with parades and celebrations being held on various days throughout the country, this year will undoubtedly be an exception. These inclusive and welcoming social gatherings often provide resources for both LGBTQIA+ youth and adults. Young people who cannot physically meet with a support network can find digital "safe spaces" and resources online to assist them. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has resources for youth and adolescents, educators, parents, guardians, and family members, which can be accessed here. Support for the LGBTQIA+ community can be shown on social media by using the following hashtags: #LGBTQIA, #PrideMonth, and #lgbtmentalhealth,

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