Why LGBTQIA+ college students are higher risk for experiencing mental health issues

June 01, 2023

Why LGBTQIA+ college students are higher risk for experiencing mental health issues

Kaitlin Gallo, Ph.D.
Chief Clinical Officer

As Pride Month, June is a time to celebrate LGBTQIA+ people around the world and their countless impactful contributions to society, spanning innovation, advocacy, and more. It also serves as a critical reminder to reflect on the history of this community’s marginalization and the challenges its members continue to face.  

From the earliest stages of grappling with their identity, LGBTQIA+ people often confront several unique stressors that impact their wellbeing. The trials of questioning their sexuality and/or gender identity as well as coming out to others can cause loneliness, fear, and anxiety. The threat or reality of rejection, especially from loved ones, is often devastating. For those who are victims of hate and discrimination, trauma and feelings of shame can take a toll on their emotional health or play into various mental health conditions.  

LGBTQIA+ people have reported experiencing mental health difficulties at significantly higher rates than their straight, cis-gender counterparts. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), LGBTQIA+ people may be up to twice as likely to experience mental illnesses as straight people, and trans people may be four times as likely compared cisgender people. As for the younger population, Mental Health America reports LGBTQIA+ teens are six times more likely to experience depressive symptoms than their non-LGBTQIA+ peers and four times more likely to attempt suicide.  

Given their risk for developing mental health challenges, LGBTQIA+ people must be able to tap into quality mental health support throughout their lives. Yet surveys indicate that many members of the LGBTQIA+ community struggle to access care, either being denied it outright or contending with stigma and cultural insensitivity that pushes them away. While the national legalization of same-sex marriage eight years ago symbolized for many progress in terms of LGBTQ+ acceptance, legislation deemed anti-gay and anti-trans continues to crop up across the country. Experts suggest some of these bills proposing to stifle discussions of gender and sexuality in schools pose particular harm to the health and wellbeing of young queer people. For trans youth, it is already becoming more difficult to receive gender-affirming care due to commanding political and social influence. “Even in states without bans, providers said death threats, harassment, fears of litigation and, in some cases, a lack of support from institutions have created a chilling effect that undermines their ability to provide care,” Politico wrote of the barriers to gender-affirming care.   

Christie Campus Health offers a wide range of services that can support LGBTQIA+ college students with their mental health needs. Christie offers customized solutions for higher education institutions that complement existing mental health and wellness efforts. Whether that is instant support from a licensed clinician through a 24/7 support line or access to no-cost counseling and teletherapy through their vast provider network, Christie is exclusively focused on the unique needs of college students, wherever they are in their mental health journey. Learn more about Christie Campus Health’s offerings.  

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