Dec 16, 2022 - News

LGBTQ youth are facing a mental health crisis in California

Photo illustration collage of an upset young person with a rainbow and shattered glass surrounding them.

Illustration: Maura Losch/Axios

Rates of suicidal thoughts among LGBTQ youth have trended upward over the past three years, according to a national report released Thursday from The Trevor Project.

What they found: In California, 44% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide in the past year, compared to 45% of LGBTQ youth nationwide, per the survey.

  • 14% of LGBTQ youth in California attempted suicide in the past year.
  • 62% of LGBTQ youth in California who wanted mental health care said they were not able to receive it.

Of note: The numbers are even more staggering for transgender and nonbinary youth.

  • 54% of trans and nonbinary youth in California seriously considered suicide, and 19% of those surveyed said they attempted suicide in the past year, according to the report.

The big picture: Anti-LGBTQ and anti-trans legislation is on the rise, which medical experts say could weigh on LGBTQ young people's mental health.

  • As of Dec. 2, 35 state legislatures, not including California, considered a record 180 anti-trans bills in 2022, per an Axios analysis of data compiled by the American Civil Liberties Union.
  • Meanwhile, the mistreatment and stigmatization of LGBTQ youth result in increased suicide risk, per The Trevor Project.
  • Montana was cited as the state with the highest rate of LGBTQ youth seriously considering suicide (55%).

What they're saying: The data underscores "the disparities in access to mental health care and systems of support among LGBTQ youth," The Trevor Project chief community officer Carrie Davis said in a written statement.

Zoom in: LGBTQ youth in San Francisco face a number of challenges, including housing and financial insecurity, and a lack of support and understanding — all of which contribute to mental health issues, San Francisco LGBT Center director of programs Jennifer Valles told Axios.

  • Among unhoused youth in San Francisco, 38% identified as LGBTQ+, per 2022 data from the San Francisco Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing.
  • LGBTQ youth are sometimes disowned by their families and kicked out of their homes, Valles said.
  • "I don't think people are really keyed in to what that struggle looks like for young people who are trying to live as their authentic selves," she said. "Just the list of barriers, it feels a little insurmountable sometimes."

San Francisco in November launched a guaranteed income program for transgender residents, something Mayor London Breed said at the time would help members of San Francisco's trans community, "who experience much higher rates of poverty and discrimination."

What's next: The SF LGBT Center offers a number of programs to LGBTQ+ youth, including mental health services, individual counseling, housing placement services and workshops on gender identity.

  • Officials at the center said there is a plan to compile San Francisco-specific data as a result of the report.
  • Meanwhile, The Trevor Project hopes researchers and policymakers will use the mental health data to better support LGBTQ youth.

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