Puberty and adolescence are an important part of all people’s lives. This is a time of significant growth and mental and physical development in which young people transition into adulthood. It is also a time when we learn and discover various things about the world, ourselves, and the environment that surrounds us. In other words, we try to define our identity, to learn who we are and who we want to become. Gender and sexual orientation can be two very meaningful aspects of a young person’s identity.
Understanding, exploring, and expressing these notions is vital for every teen’s character development; however, it is also a unique experience for everyone. Some may be unsure of their sexual or gender identity, while others may know from a very young age. Defining one’s sexual orientation and gender identity is something that is influenced by a lot of social, cultural, and personal factors. This is why the LGBTQ+ youth community often faces a plethora of challenges in their day-to-day lives.
A huge number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender youth, and those questioning their orientation, experience a lot of emotional and even physical abuse in their communities, in their schools, and even in their homes, because of how people respond to their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. Those who are rejected and unaccepted by their families and close friends usually suffer the most, as acceptance and love from these groups are the first and most important elements for securing mental and physical health and well-being. This is also one of the first problems that LGBTQ+ youth may face: rejection by family and friends, and lack of support from their communities. Other challenges include discrimination, violence, harassment, abuse, victimization, social oppression, and bullying.
As a result, many youngsters suffer from anxiety, low self-esteem problems, depression, stress, and other mental problems which take a huge toll on their health. Thus, they try to find various means to end their struggles and sufferings, and many young people turn to drugs, alcohol, running away from home, and even suicide. According to recent studies, transgender and gender-nonconforming children and teens are three times more likely to develop mental conditions such as depression, anxiety, and attention deficit disorders, and eight times more likely to die by suicide suicide, than heterosexual youth. You can find more statistics concerning the various struggles that LGBTQ+ youth face here.
This is why it is of utmost importance for all social and human services to affirm and support LGBTQ+ youth and provide the best and safest environment to protect the rights and the general well-being of LGBTQ+ youth. Communities should promote love, acknowledgment, and acceptance, and focus on the needs and experiences of LGBTQ+ youth. For instance, all schools should have programs that protect all of their students, including LGBTQ+ students. They should be made a place where the students will feel safe instead of threatened and will have access to “safe spaces,” such as counselors’ offices, where the students can receive support from the school personnel.
Furthermore, all schools should make mental health care and suicide prevention more accessible to young people. Human and social service workers should focus on providing the best assistance to all federal, state, and local agencies in health, welfare, education, and justice, with the common goal of having strong and fully functional support systems for LGBTQ+ youth. You can find more strategies for providing the best help and support for LGBTQ+ youth here.