LGBTQ+ youth are struggling not due to sexual orientation or gender identity, but societal stigma.
A new study from Stony Brook Medicine focused on the health needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer or questioning adults (LGBTQ+) in the New York area, and more than 30 Long Island based organizations and community leaders regularly work with LGBTQ+ populations through advocacy services were interviewed. The Trevor Project, an organization whose mission is to advocate for LGBTQ+ youth, has stated that this community is not normally prone to mental and physical health issues because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but they are at higher risk due to the way they are stigmatized in society.
Specifically, a recent report looked at the stark realities that LGBTQ+ youth are facing today as they reveal their sexual orientation and gender identities. The study found that these youth are coming out at younger ages, which is causing them to face more discrimination and victimization than older youth. This is causing more mental health issues leading to more suicide attempts.
The study from Stony Brook Medicine is the first of its kind. Between June and September 2021, the organization received 1,150 completed surveys from participants who varied in age, gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, and income. According to Robert Chaloner, Chief Administrative Officer, at Stony Book Southampton Hospital said, “As Long Island’s first and only LGBTQ+ comprehensive health care center, we were committed to providing a culturally sensitive and safe environment. As we planned programming, we became aware that there was very little LGBTQ+ health-related data.”
The survey results were staggering. Of all the study participants, there were over 60 percent who said they have felt depressed or sad on most days for two or more years of their lives. There was close to 44 percent of those surveyed who reported having fair/poor mental health. On top of that, approximately 38 percent of those surveyed said they have regular issues with moderate to severe anxiety or depression.
“Everything before this was estimates, guessing, was speculation. But you actually have real, hard data based on the survey, on asking real people these types of questions — these tough questions — and really getting into demographics, and also getting to issues of what makes the experience of someone who is Black and gay different from the experience of someone who is white and gay,” Gregson Pigott, Commissioner of the Suffolk County Department of Health Services said.
The Stony Brook Medicine survey also found that close to 24 percent of those surveyed have seriously considered suicide, while approximately 4 percent have attempted to take their life. On top of that, 34 percent of those surveyed have thought about self-harming.
Access to health for the LGBTQ+ community is an ongoing problem. Data released from the Center for American Progress in 2018 showed that the LBGTQ+ community frequently avoid accessing healthcare due to their experience with discrimination and stigmatism.
In response to the Stony Brook Medicine survey results, sensitivity training is in the process of being extended to the entire health care system in the New York area. In addition, LGBTQ+ resource centers will provide material to medical students’ curriculums.