Jun 3, 2021 - News

The pandemic's heavy toll on LGBTQ+ kids' mental health

Illustration of the colors of the LGBTQ Pride flag projected over the silhouette of a teenager.

Illustration: Brendan Lynch/Axios

Many LGBTQ+ teens in Colorado and across the U.S. already feel a sense of isolation from those around them — even without social distancing guidelines or quarantine mandates. But experts say the pandemic has made those feelings even worse.

The big picture: For Colorado children of all identities and backgrounds, suicide attempts and calls for psychiatric help are surging.

  • Children's Hospital Colorado recently declared a pediatric mental health emergency — a first in its 117-year history — and leaders are demanding more funding for resources, which they say have run dry amid "skyrocketing" demand.
  • The hospital system has seen a 90% increase in behavioral health visits in the past two years, officials report.

Driving the news: A recent poll from the Trevor Project found 42% of LGBTQ+ youth across America reported seriously considering suicide during the pandemic, and 70% said the coronavirus negatively affected their mental health most of the time.

  • The survey of nearly 35,000 young people found that being cooped up at home — a place where only 1 out of every 3 LGBTQ+ youth said they were allowed to be themselves — was a main driver.

What they're saying: "As much as I want to say I'm surprised by the report, I'm not," said Tara Jae, the founder of YouthSeen, a Colorado-based nonprofit serving LGBTQ+ kids.

  • "Not only were we dealing with folks not having access to food and mental health in the way we should have, but there was a lot of isolation to the point where young people could not reach out — even online — because that was being watched by guardians and parents," Jae told Axios.

Zoom in: Over the last year, the Trevor Project, a crisis intervention service for LGBTQ+ youth, supported over 2,700 calls, chats and texts in Colorado, the group's spokesperson Rob Todaro told Axios.

  • But Todaro says that's a fraction of the number of Colorado's LGBTQ+ youth estimated to be in crisis.

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