More than one in four LGBTQ students have considered dropping out of school due to mental health issues, a survey published on Thursday shows.
And a large majority of LGBTQ students — 92% — say their mental health has negatively impacted some part of their college experience, according to the survey conducted by Educational Resources and the College Rankings website. BestColleges.com found.
The survey results raise concerns about the repercussions if fewer of these students finish college, according to BestColleges analyst Jessica Bryant, author of the report.
“With school grades, it doesn’t end there with education, it impacts all future grades,” Bryant said. “If we see fewer LGBTQIA students graduating from college, that will ultimately mean fewer LGBTQIA students in the workforce, that’s not good either.”
Fewer LGBTQ graduates would be detrimental to all parts of society, Bryant said.
“We know firsthand how beneficial all kinds of diversity are to a workforce and to driving innovation across industries,” she said. “So if we see fewer of these students finishing their studies, fewer of them in the workforce, it’s like we’re going backwards, it’s like we’re going backwards.”
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Challenges Facing LGBTQ Students
The survey comes as more and more young people are embracing new identities: A recent Gallup poll found that 21% of Gen Z Americans — those born between 1997 and 2003 and a group that makes up the majority of college students — now identify as LGBTQ.
As LGBTQ students enter college, acknowledging the mental health challenges they face is crucial to navigating their identity in a new environment, said Keygan Miller, public education manager at the Trevor Project, which provides crisis and suicide prevention services to people under the age of 25.
“The transition to college or university can be difficult for any student,” they said. said. “But for LGBTQ students in particular, they often face unique challenges regarding their identity.”
Challenges include being disconnected from supportive social networks, hanging out with new friends and peers, and struggling to find LGBTQ affirmation spaces on campus, Miller said.
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In the survey, students cited financial barriers, difficulty getting appointments, and a lack of LGBTQ counselors as the top barriers preventing them from seeking mental health help.
While it may not be realistic to have LGBTQ identification counselors at every college and university, training clinicians on LGBTQ topics and specific counseling can be a positive step, according to Laura Horne, head of the program for active mindsa non-profit organization that educates young adults about mental health.
“When you really drill down, that’s the concern we hear most often from LGBTQ youth that some providers aren’t trained to deal with the unique issues they may face,” Horne said. . “They are there to receive quality care, but instead they often have to educate their care providers about who they are, and I also often hear that fear of discrimination when accessing care can lead students to choose not to seek treatment.”
Not all LGBTQ students are the same
Understanding how LGBTQ students aren’t monolithic is also invaluable in addressing these mental health challenges, Horne said.
LGBTQ students who identify as ‘BIPOC’ – an umbrella term for ‘Black, Indigenous and People of Color’ – were more likely to say they hadn’t sought mental health help, survey finds than white LGBTQ students, and were slightly more likely than their white LGBTQ peers to say their mental health has deteriorated since attending school.
LGBTQ youth with multiple marginalized identities have heightened fears and concerns about finding clinicians who understand and can meet the needs of their unique identities, Miller said.
“These students face unique challenges, whether it’s increased experiences of racism and discrimination, having fewer financial resources to pay for textbooks and other educational needs, or being in able to find mental health practitioners who understand and meet the needs of their intersecting identities,” they said.
Addressing mental health challenges requires preventative measures, Horne said, including working to make all spaces on campus welcoming to members of the LGBTQ community.
Colleges and universities can also support LGBTQ students by providing cultural competency training to faculty, administrators and staff to ensure they have allies on campus, according to Miller.
Inclusive campuses allow students must have their preferred or chosen name on student records and provide gender-neutral housing and LGBTQ resource centers on campus, advocates say.
“I think LGBTQ health and wellbeing is often delegated to the counseling center or LGBTQ centers that are on campus. It needs to be made a priority across campus,” Horne said. “We need an increased awareness that if we care about student mental health, we care about LGBTQ students, inclusion and belonging.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.