LGBTQ+ is an acronym that stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning, which are terms used to describe an individual’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Additionally, young people that identify as non-heterosexual or non-cisgender may consider themselves members of the LGBTQ+ community. Despite the efforts made by the federal government (e.g., Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964) to safeguard members of the LGBTQ+ community from discrimination based on their gender identity and/ or sexual orientation, the deeply ingrained stigma still exists.
Teenagers that identify as LGBTQ+ are often subject to hate crimes (e.g., physical and/ or emotional abuse, threats, public humiliation, etc.), sexual orientation discrimination, and/ or rejection from loved ones. The Human Rights Campaign asserts that LGBTQ+ youth are more likely to face bullying, interpersonal violence, and have a 120% higher risk of homelessness than those that identify as cisgender, heterosexual teens. Members of the LGBTQ community are also at increased risk for a developing mental illness. Hence, supporting the mental health of LGBTQ+ teens is of paramount importance.
There are a variety of options available to help safeguard and enhance the mental health of LGBTQ+ teens. According to the American Psychological Association (APA) “the foundational ethical principle of ‘self-determination’ requires that children and adolescents be supported in their right to explore, define and articulate their own identity.” Further, that all “children and adolescents are required to have access to behavioral health treatments that will promote their health and welfare.” LGBT affirmative therapy, for example, is a form of psychotherapy expressly designed to “validate and advocate for the needs of sexual and gender minority clients.” There is a wide array of mental health clinicians that have completed the relative trainings and are familiar with the nuanced needs of LGBTQ+ youth who are uniquely equipped to provide those in need with comprehensive, individualized care.
It is not uncommon for young members of the LGBTQ+ community to seek counseling for gender dysphoria. The Mayo Clinic explains that “gender dysphoria is a feeling of discomfort or distress that might occur in people whose gender identity differs from their sex assigned at birth or sex-related physical characteristics.” Gender dysphoria is not a mental illness, however the disconnect that occurs between a teenager’s assigned sex at birth and one’s internal sense of self can result in undue pain and distress. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, Fifth Edition (DSM-5) includes gender dysphoria, solely for the purpose of providing a diagnostic term to enable access to care. Therefore, a young person that obtains a diagnosis of gender dysphoria will have access to insurance coverage that accommodates mental health counseling, including gender-affirming care. We can help young LGBTQ+ members navigate the challenges they face by providing ample resources, love, and acceptance. Supporting LGBTQ+ teens in their mental health journey requires understanding, empathy, and proactive measures to create a safe and affirming environment.
For Information and Support
Every family in need of mental health treatment must select a program that will best suit the needs of their family. When one member of a family struggles, it impacts everyone in the family unit. To maximize the benefits of treatment we work closely with the entire family to ensure that everyone is receiving the support they need through these difficult times.
Seeking help is never easy, but you are not alone! If you or someone you know needs mental health treatment, we strongly encourage you to reach out for help as quickly as possible. It is not uncommon for many mental health difficulties to impact a person’s life, long term. Pursuing support at the beginning of one’s journey can put the individual in the best position to learn how to manage themselves in a healthy way so they can go on to live happy and fulfilling lives.
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