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Investigating Social Support and Barriers to Mental Health Care among LGBTQ+ Youth

LGBTQ+ youth report higher rates of mental health problems (e.g., depression, anxiety, suicidality) in comparison to their peers, which are often tied to experiences of minority stress (McDonald, 2018; Meyer, 2003). Because of these concerns, LGBTQ youth require more access to affirming mental health treatment and support, yet often experience significant barriers when attempting to access these resources (Snyder et al., 2017; Zullo et al., 2021). Additionally, LGBTQ youth often report learning little to nothing about LGBTQ people in their coursework and rarely receiving comprehensive sexuality education (Hobaica et al., 2017; Hobaica et al., 2019). They also report frequent bullying and victimization in school settings (Kosciw et al., 2020). These experiences have all been argued to be possible causes for future health problems in LGBTQ youth. Much of the current research documents health problems and barriers that LGBTQ youth experience, with little data collected on what youth would benefit from having or would like more of to improve their health, especially from the perspective of LGBTQ youth.

This study aims to better illuminate, through the voices of LGBTQ youth, barriers that LGBTQ youth experience when attempting to gain support for their health concerns or experiences, as well as what they would like to receive from others and larger systems. Additionally, this study will gather data on what information students receive in the classroom, as well as what they would like to receive more information on, especially in the realm of sexuality education. These findings can be used to design new curricula and programs to better meet the needs of LGBTQ youth. Lastly, the study will highlight other resources that LGBTQ youth require to live confident, healthy lives, which can inform recommendations for friends, family, and community members as supporters and allies to LGBTQ youth.

The project will yield several focused manuscripts:

  1. We evaluated youth's experiences of their sexual health education. Youth provided recommendations to improve these programs in the future to meet their needs.

  2. We evaluated youth's experiences of access and barriers to mental health care. Youth provided recommendations for mental health providers and policy makers to support and validate LGBTQ+ youth when they are seeking mental health services.

  3. We also evaluated youth's perceptions of social support from family, friends, and their chosen family.

  4. Lastly, we examined how structural stigma and recent policy changes is associated with youth responses to the previous sections as well as their current mental health (e.g., depressive symptoms, anxiety, and substance use).

Two hands holding a paper heart in the colors of the rainbow flag

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