Why LGBTQ Students Faced Additional Mental Health Burdens During the Pandemic

Why LGBTQ Students Faced Additional Mental Health Burdens During the Pandemic

Kelly Pease
Sales and Marketing Representative

The pandemic affected the mental health of students, teachers, families, and faculty alike, but some groups on campus struggled more than others. According to NASPA CEO Kevin Kruger, “Our most vulnerable students have been affected more significantly by the change in both instructional methodology as well as campus changes in general. For instance, our LGBTQ students are experiencing much higher levels of stress and anxiety.” According to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health, Indigenous and LGBTQ Students' Mental Health was the Most Hurt by Pandemic. In fact, “students who identify as Bisexual, Questioning, Pansexual, Lesbian, and Queer reported higher rates of negative impacts from COVID-19 in areas including mental health, motivation or focus, loneliness and isolation, academics, and missed experiences or opportunities.”

Being a college student is stressful. There’s pressure on everything from friendships, family, academics to relationships, finances and so on. For LGBTQ students, there are additional daily pressures that impact mental health—pressures of which others might not even be aware.

The Mental Health Coalition created a roadmap that clearly highlights these “daily nuisances” and what it can mean to LGBTQ students. The list includes:

  • Disclosure fatigue
  • Internalized guilt, shame, and stigma
  • Expectations of others
  • Small and big rejections
  • Code switching
  • Self-doubt and negative self-appraisals

LGBTQ students might feel like they have to adapt how they act based on perceptions about how others will react to knowing their sexual orientation, to having to decide when and if to disclose information about sexual orientation and some may even feel guilt that they do not fit the mold into which society expects them to fit. This is a lot for anyone to take on, especially college students who are struggling so much already.

For many students, college is a time of self-discovery. For LGBTQ students, college may be the first time that they decide to be open about their sexuality in a way that they felt they could not be in their childhood home. When the pandemic struck so suddenly, many students were forced to move home unexpectedly, and for many LGBTQ students, this meant losing that freedom to be themselves, because they hadn’t come out to their family, they weren’t ready to open up yet, or their family is not accepting of LGBQ identities. For instance, The Journal of Adolescent Health reported, “Nearly half (45.7%) of LGBT college students have immediate families that do not support or know their LGBT identity and approximately 60% of sampled LGBT college students were experiencing psychological distress, anxiety, and depression during the pandemic.” According to a recent study by The Trevor Project:

  • “More than 80% of LGBTQ youth stated that COVID-19 made their living situation more stressful — and only 1 in 3 LGBTQ youth found their home to be LGBTQ-affirming.”
  • 70% of LGBTQ youth stated that their mental health was "poor" most of the time or always during COVID-19.
  • 48% of LGBTQ youth reported they wanted counseling from a mental health professional but were unable to receive it in the past year.

So, what can be done to support LGBTQ students? The Journal of Adolescent Health calls for swift action to be taken by colleges, universities, health providers, and counseling centers, to ensure LGBTQ students receive mental health support during these challenging times. One way to support LGBTQ students is by ensuring that at least some of the counselors who are available to students are a part of the LGBTQ community and/or have a specialty in serving LGBTQ-identifying people. This helps students to know that their identity will be accepted, can help them open up more freely and can even help them see part of themselves in their counselor. Another way to provide support to LGBTQ students is by offering options for how to receive care so the therapy modality fits the situation. For example, a student may need to talk through how not being out to their parents is affecting them, but would not want to verbalize those thoughts and feelings on a video call in their family home, so a texting option or self-guided therapy would better fit their needs.

No school has the budget to hire clinicians to reflect every student on campus. Working with a company like Christie Campus Health can help to break down those barriers to care by providing access to an extensive and diverse clinical network that can help further meet the needs of your students. CCH also has a variety of support options so students can select the best mode of care for them.


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