Tuesday, June 6, 2023

Few Mental Health Programs Specifically Geared Toward LGBTQ Youth, Report Finds

Evidence suggests that youth who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ) are more likely to experience mental health problems than those who identify as heterosexual and cisgender. Yet, a report in JAMA Pediatrics has found that few U.S. mental health facilities that offer services for youth include treatments or groups specifically tailored to LGBTQ youth.

“Compared with heterosexual or cisgender youth, LGBTQ youth have 3 times higher prevalence of depression and anxiety, and 42% have considered suicide,” wrote Kristen R. Choi, Ph.D., R.N., of the University of California, Los Angeles, and colleagues. “Fifty-four percent of LGBTQ youth reported wanting mental health care but not receiving any, partly due to adverse experiences with clinicians and perceptions that clinicians do not understand sexual or gender identity–related mental health needs.”

To determine the availability of LGBTQ mental health services for youth in the United States, Choi and colleagues relied on data collected by the National Mental Health Services Survey. The authors specifically focused on how those surveyed responded to the following question: “Does this facility offer a mental health treatment program or group that is dedicated or designed exclusively for clients [who are] lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer/questioning (LGBTQ)?” From this information, they calculated the percentage of mental health facilities for youth that offered LGBTQ-specific services in 2020, as well the number of youth mental health facilities with LGBTQ-specific services per 100,000 children, which the authors noted is “a broad indicator of child access to care.”

A total of 12,275 facilities were included in the 2020 sample. Of the 8,077 facilities that offered services for children or youth, 2,294 (28%) offered LGBTQ-specific services in 2020, Choi and colleagues reported. 

“Although some states had relatively high levels of LGBTQ service availability as a percentage of facilities, many of these states had few facilities available to children per capita. Public mental health facilities were less likely to offer LGBTQ-specific mental health services, a concern given that the cost of care is a barrier to services,” the authors concluded. “The [f]indings suggest a need to expand availability of LGBTQ services for youth in underserved geographic areas and in public mental health care.”

For related information, see the Psychiatric News articles “Starting a New Presidential Year With Pride” and “Special Report: Evolving Controversies in the Treatment of Gender Dysphoric/Incongruent Minors.” 

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