LGBTQ mental health during COVID

| March 12, 2021
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Amidst the isolation and distance caused by the current COVID-19 pandemic, there is an increased recognition of the need for competent mental health care. However, several recent studies have shown that LGBTQ people are not getting the care they need. 

In July, The Trevor Project released the National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health 2020. (For this survey, “youth” includes people from age 13-24.) More than half (54%) of the 40,001 LGBTQ youth in this study who reported wanting mental health care in the past year did not receive it. External barriers to care included an inability to pay for services and not having a guardian’s permission for care. 

The survey also identified a number of barriers related to perceptions of mental health care. 22% of participants reported that they were not out about their identities and worried that seeking care might out them in some way. 22% also reported that they had previous negative experiences with counseling and avoided a repeat experience. Participants also worried that providers would either not understand their gender identity/sexual orientation, or that providers would focus too much on gender identity/sexual orientation. All of these barriers mean that LGBTQ people do not always receive the mental health care they need.  

This is particularly concerning during the isolation caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. LGBTQ college students may find themselves at home, separated from the support provided by their college community. In spring 2020. a survey of 477 LGBTQ college students showed that the majority (88%) felt that their lives had been disrupted by COVID-19 a fair amount or a great deal (Gonzales et. al, 2020)Many students (46%) found themselves living with families who were either unsupportive of their identities or who did not know about their LGBTQ identities. Moreover, a significant number (41%) felt that they were not currently able to receive mental health care. 

Yet, despite these barriers, evidence shows that if LGBTQ people are able to find culturally respectful care, they will thrive. The Trevor Project also found that access to LGBTQ-affirming spaces was linked to lower risk of suicide compared to youth who could access LGBTQ-affirming spaces.  

For these reasons, it is important for LGBTQ college students to protect their own mental health. For students at Hopkins, this might mean seeking support through LGBTQ Life, perhaps through one-on-one discussion, finding a peer mentor, or joining an identity-specific meetup. It might mean using some of the self-help resources listed hereOr, it might mean accessing the counseling provided by the Homewood Counseling Center (for Homewood and Peabody students) University Health Services (East Baltimore), and JHSAP (SOM, SON, BSPH, Carey, SAIS, School of Education, EFP, and AAP). Keep in mind that for some students who are physically outside of Maryland and DC, you may be referred to TimelyMD.  

LGBTQ people deserve access to culturally respectful mental health care. If you have any questions about this topic or want to discuss further resources, please email [email protected]. You can also refer to this recent blog post for an in-depth explainer about the process of seeking an identity-affirming counselor and what your first sessions might be like.