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LGBTQ+ Teenagers With Anxiety



Many LGBTQ+ teenagers struggle with anxiety. These teens face discrimination associated with being a part of a stigmatized minority group, which increases their chances of having a mental illness.

Why does this matter?

Mental health is health. Even though that might seem obvious, a lot of the general population doesn’t have a thorough understanding of or accept people with mental illnesses. Similarly, although the public has become more empathetic and accepting of the LGBTQ+ community in recent years, LGBTQ+ people still experience discrimination. Acknowledging the stigma surrounding these two communities is the first step in trying to reduce it.

What is minority stress?

Minority stress is psychological distress caused by being a part of a stigmatized group. This distress stems from internalized stigmatization and interpersonal discrimination, prejudice, victimization, social exclusion, denial of civil or human rights, harassment, abuse, rejection, etc.. This stress can cause physiological responses such as anxiety or elevated blood pressure and with time may have other adverse effects on a person’s mental and physical health. The consequences of minority stress are visible: people who identify as non-heterosexual are three times more likely to receive a diagnosis of major depression and anxiety disorders than their straight peers (NAMI).

Teenagers are particularly susceptible to social exclusion behaviors and/or attitudes as they are at a vulnerable stage in their development where their peers and their peers’ opinions have a strong influence on them. Because of their age and stigmatized identities, LGBTQ+ teenagers are at a greater risk for poor mental health (Russell and Fish). They are likely to have heightened levels of emotional distress, and symptoms related to anxiety disorders. Additionally, poor mental health can lead to many behavioral health disparities such as substance abuse.

Human Rights Campaign. “2018 LGBTQ Youth Report.” Human Rights Campaign, www.hrc.org/resources/2018-lgbtq-youth-report.

History of Prejudice and Discrimination Against the LGBTQ+ Community:

  • Until 1973, homosexuality was in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM), commonly referred to as the “bible of psychiatry”
  • Homosexuality was listed as a “sociopathic personality disturbance” for many years
  • 92% of LGBTQ+ youth report that they hear negative messages about being LGBTQ+
  • 85% of LGBTQ+ students were verbally harassed in the past year
  • LGBTQ+ youth are two times more likely than their peers to be physically assaulted, kicked, or shoved
  • There are still 168 countries where gay marriage has not been legalized (27 countries have legalized gay marriage)
Human Rights Campaign. “2018 LGBTQ Youth Report.” Human Rights Campaign, www.hrc.org/resources/2018-lgbtq-youth-report.

Three Main Causes Of Minority Stress:

  • Objective or external stressors, including structural or institutional discrimination and direct interpersonal interactions
  • Anticipation or expectation of victimization and rejection, as well as related hypervigilance
  • Internalization of negative social attitudes (internalized homophobia and/or transphobia)

Examples of How Minority Stress Works:

  • Victimization ⟶ psychological consequences
  • People face prejudice and discrimination ⟶ they learn to read situations in order to judge how safe a situation is and/or how much they can be themselves (highly attuned to context) ⟶ they have increased levels of anxiety
  • People hear and see negative messages about their identity as a member of the LGBTQ+ community⟶ they start to believe these ideas ⟶ they internalize homophobia and/or transphobia ⟶ self-hatred

Dual Stigma:

Many LGBTQ+ teenagers struggle with anxiety and hence face dual or doubled stigma because they are a part of the LGBTQ+ community and because they have a mental illness. Heightened mental health risks exist for LGBTQ+ teens at the structural, societal, and interpersonal levels, but less is known about the risks concerning the intrapersonal levels (= taking place in the mind).

What YOU can Do To Help (with links):

LGBTQ+ teenagers need support from parents, guardians, other adults, and from their peers (that’s you!). Doing any of the things on the list above contributes to a favorable school climate where students are safe to be themselves, which in turn leads to better psychological adjustment, more positive mental health, self-acceptance, and well-being.

Survey:

The following survey consists of four multiple choice questions and should only take a minute to complete. My goal with this survey is to see if I can detect a statistically significant difference in levels of stress and/or anxiety among people who identify as a part of the LGBTQ+ community. (When looking at the different results, keep in mind that the data collected is not entirely conclusive as the sample size is fairly small.)

If you have a minute, please take the survey!

Create your own user feedback survey

Results of Survey (All Participants)

Results of Survey (LGBTQ+ Participants Only)

More Resources for LGBTQ+ Teenagers with Anxiety (or Concerned Peers/ Parents/ Friends):

Sources Cited and Resources Consulted:

https://docs.google.com/document/d/16aS_UhXRtK_CHATudG59148e3oSh8w8TKc0Spl8gBxY/edit?usp=sharing

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COMMENTS: 10
  1. April 25, 2019 by William Le Clercq Reply

    Veronica, this is one of the most impressive catalyst conferences I have ever seen. The amount of ways you put forth for people to get involved in the LGBTQ+ community is awesome. You truly will inspire change through this project, well done! The statistics that you have are mind blowing, and you truly show how change is needed immediately.

    • April 26, 2019 by Veronica Kruschel Reply

      Thank you so much, William! I’m incredibly grateful for your feedback and I’m glad that my project was able to communicate the importance of this issue and how it needs to be addressed. I hope that my examples of ways to get involved can help people LGBTQ+ community feel supported. The ways I listed are good first steps, and if even one person decides to try them out then a difference has been made. I hope that people start with the examples I gave and then continue to take steps to help and fight for change; the struggles of LGBTQ+ teenagers with anxiety won’t magically go away, but everyone has the power to help.

  2. April 26, 2019 by Ella.Bogdanski Reply

    Veronica,

    Your project was very informative and it made me much more aware of how serious this issue is. The numbers that you present are extremely alarming! I hope that more people will begin to become aware of this issue and work towards finding solutions. I agree with you that a good first step is becoming more accepting and supportive of people in the LGBTQ+ community. Although I do not identify as an LGBTQ+ teenager, I do suffer from anxiety and depression. I sympathize with any young people who suffer from these burdens and hope that in the future teenagers will have better mental health. I am so impressed that you tackled such a serious and important topic.

    Best, Ella

    • April 26, 2019 by Veronica Kruschel Reply

      Thank you for your feedback, Ella. It’s interesting to hear what stood out to other people from my presentation and what they took away from it. I’m glad that you found it informative, and I also hope that more people will begin to become aware and will work toward finding solutions. Struggling with your mental health can be incredibly difficult. Many people are working to build a world where we can be open about mental health and where there can be more resources and support for those struggling. I think we can make the world a kind place, a better place for everyone, starting by raising awareness, educating ourselves, being open, and listening to others.

  3. April 26, 2019 by Caroline.Cummins Reply

    Veronica, your project is unbelievable. You can tell how hard you worked throughout this whole project and that you care very much about this topic. I learned many many new things while reading your work and I think it is so impressive to see what you have done here with the stats that you acquired. Amazing job and I think people will agree with me when I say that I learned so much from you and really find this to be a very vital topic in our world today.

    • April 26, 2019 by Veronica Kruschel Reply

      Thank you so much for the feedback and compliments, Caroline. I sincerely appreciate them! It’s gratifying to hear that you learned something from my project, it makes me feel like my goal of raising awareness has been reached. It’s always interesting for me to hear what particular thing from my presentation was the most memorable or what stood out or was shocking, and it seems that the statistics I included are what people retained from this presentation. Thank you, again!

  4. April 26, 2019 by Lizzie Nash Reply

    Veronica! I think you have accomplished something amazing here! I love that you were willing to be vulnerable and choose a topic that is not talked about often! The amount of information you have packed into your presentation is incredible! Your call to action is extremely informative and I have learned so much from your presentation! Visually it is so impressive and really nice to look at. I wonder, have you noticed any changes in your school or community surrounding this topic? Overall I think you did an amazing job!

    • April 27, 2019 by Veronica Kruschel Reply

      Lizzie, thank you so much! I’m glad you learned so much and enjoyed my presentation–that means all my work paid off! In regards to my school or community, I like in San Francisco which is very progressive in general and accepting of the LGBTQ+ community, so overall a lot of the problems many people in the LGBTQ+ face aren’t as extreme here as elsewhere around the world. That said, there’s still homophobia and transphobia present, and some people in my school still make jokes or comments, but there is a movement within my school to try and educate people more and make them more aware of how they might be unintentionally hurting LGBTQ+ students and/or faculty.

  5. April 29, 2019 by Samira.Kethu Reply

    Great job on your conference Veronica! I think you did an amazing job shedding light on such a heavy topic. I also really loved that you included sstatistics as they showed how real the issue is!

    • April 29, 2019 by Veronica Kruschel Reply

      Thank you, Samira! Your feedback is helpful and very much appreciated! I’m glad my use of statistics was effective.

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