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LGBTQ+ Youth and Depression

By Dr. Fabienne Bain, Clinical Director of The Baker Center for Children and Families at Waltham 

In our previous post, we discussed some alarming statistics that show LGBTQ+ youth consistently struggle with more mental health conditions in comparison to heterosexual or cisgender youth. While each experience is different, and some youth may experience different conditions than others, research has identified depression as one of the leading mental health conditions LGBTQ+ youth experience.

Depression is typically categorized as a persistent feeling of sadness or apathy caused either by psychological or social factors (or sometimes a combination of both). In many cases of depression in LGBTQ+ youth, social factors are at the forefront. When we examine the potentially negative social experiences LGBTQ+ youth are exposed to, this makes sense.

School can be a challenging social environment for LGBTQ+ youth, with 55% of youth feeling unsafe during the day*. 74% of LGBTQ+ youth have reported being verbally harassed*, and 16% have reported being physically assaulted*. These occurrences not only contribute to depression but can impact a student’s grades and more importantly, their self-worth.

The social struggles for LGBTQ+ youth can continue at home, with a large number of LGBTQ+ youth experiencing family rejection or violence. In many cases, parents may forbid their LGBTQ+ children from “coming out” or telling anyone else about their sexuality. This contributes greatly to feelings of social isolation, which can both trigger and exacerbate depression. Another common reaction among parents is to kick the child out of the house. Studies have shown that nearly 40% of all homeless youth are LGBTQ+, and the extreme conditions of homelessness doubtlessly make depression worse*.

While depression in LGBTQ+ youth is a serious issue, the good news is that there are effective and available treatments to support these youth. Depression is typically treated with a combination of therapy known as Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and medication. CBT is an evidence-based treatment (meaning it is proven to work) that helps people identify and change thinking and behavior patterns that are harmful or ineffective, replacing them with more accurate thoughts and helpful behaviors. If you know a child or teen that’s struggling with depression, don’t wait! At Judge Baker, we offer outpatient services at our two clinic locations: The Baker Center for Children and Families in Waltham and the Center for Effective Child Therapy in Boston and can treat depression.

 

*SOURCE: Kerr (2021). Depression in the LGBTQIA+ Population. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/gay