Supporting LGBTQ+ Youth

Adolescence can be a challenging time in a young person’s life regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but studies show that LGBTQ+ youth report much higher rates of depression, anxiety, and lower self-esteem than non-LGBTQ+ youth.  


The 2023 LGBTQ+ Youth Report released by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) shows that almost 6 in 10 (59.4%) LGBTQ+ youth—including 62.6% of transgender and gender-expansive youth—have been “teased, bullied, or treated badly” at school. Mental health is a critical element of an individual’s total body health, which is why it is important to address the barriers in mental health services, especially within marginalized groups such as the LGBTQ+ community. 


LGBTQ+ teens can experience better health outcomes when they feel a sense of belonging, or inclusion, from parents and their community. Creating an inclusive environment requires parents, school staff, health professionals, and community partners to have access to training and/or resources to help better support LGBTQ+ youth. 


“At ACCESS, we have been a proud ally to the LGBTQ+ community for decades. As a part of our commitment, we are continuously working to ensure our health centers are inclusive for all patients, particularly the LGBTQ+ community. We understand there is a disproportionate risk of violence, physical and emotional abuse, and mental health disorders for members of this community, and offering a safe space for health care shouldn’t have to be a concern," says ACCESS’ Director of Behavioral Health Services, Rachel Engram-Sims, M.S., L.C.S.W. 


It is crucial that LGBTQ+ individuals of all ages have the necessary support and resources. Here are some tips to help parents support the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ teens:  


Engage your teen. 

LGBTQ+ youth may find it stressful to share their sexual orientation in the first place. Your LGBTQ+ teen needs the same level of care, respect, information and support as non-LGBTQ+ teens.  

It is important to listen to your child’s worries, empathize with them, share and just be there for them when they need you. Parents should affirm their LGBTQ+ young person by sharing pride in their identity, positive messages of love and acceptance, hope for their future and admiration for them discussing their identity with you. 


Learn about sexual orientation and gender identity.  

Regardless of whether your teen identifies as LGBTQ+ or not, sharing age-appropriate books, movies, and resources with young people can teach them about LGBTQ+ people, histories, and identities. Learning the language, terminology and pronouns can help you communicate effectively with your teens and allow them to express themselves accordingly. 


Encourage non-judgmental STI and HIV status awareness 

According to a Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA) report, LGBTQ+ teens who were rejected by their families were more than three times as likely to be at high risk for HIV and sexually transmitted infections (STI).  

As a parent, you can create a positive and empowering discussion around sexual health by teaching them the importance of safe and protected sex along with routine HIV and STI screening so they can protect themselves and their partners. ACCESS provides universal HIV and STI testing at all 35 health center locations. Learn more here 


Seek out resources and respect your teen’s decisions. 

Parents can access information online to learn more about how they can support their LGBTQ+ teen and talk to them before coming out on their behalf. First, it is important to be respectful of your teen and understand that they may need time before telling the rest of their family and friends.  

Allow them to come out when they’re comfortable but assure them that their LGBTQ+ identity doesn’t have to be a secret and they can talk about it with others when they’re ready. When your teen is ready and if you feel like they need it, talk to your ACCESS provider about mental health resources to better support their journey. 


Reach out for support.  

Find out if your child’s school offers any services or educational groups that may be supportive of their identity. Be mindful of what your teen wants and ask them about this kind of support before you talk to anyone else. Advocate for inclusive spaces in their classrooms and professional development training for their teachers when necessary. Your child is a part of their community, and they deserve an inclusive and respectful environment just like their peers. 


How We Can Help 

ACCESS recommends being proactive about your family’s total body health, which includes your physical and mental health care needs. ACCESS offers a wide range of behavioral health services and programs to help individuals live the best life possible, as well as HIV testing, counseling and referrals.  

If you have any concerns or further questions about how to best support your LGBTQ+ teen, schedule an appointment with your care provider today. Contact ACCESS to schedule an appointment at a location near you. 

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As of June 6, 2024