Weeks ago, college campuses around the country started closing their doors to curb the spread of the coronavirus. And it’s unlikely that the weeks and months to come will bring an end to both the pandemic, and the difficulties faced by students navigating a dramatically different campus (and world).
Amid all the problems exacerbated by school closures, mental health support for LGBTQ students remains crucial, but potentially harder to access, according to experts consulted by Mashable.
Everyone’s mental health should be a priority right now: The isolation necessary to flatten the curve, the process in which protective measures are taken in order to ensure the number of cases doesn’t overwhelm the capacity of the healthcare system, takes a psychic toll on those obeying mandated social distancing as well as those in states with stay-at-home orders, a toll that may last after the pandemic gets under control.
For LGBTQ youth, there are increased risks associated with campus closures and the isolation that comes with it, which can cut them off from key mental health resources, according to Dr. Tia Dole, the chief clinical operations officer at the Trevor Project, a LGBTQ crisis intervention support network.
In addition to lacking the support provided by peers and campus LGBTQ centers, some students, if they attend school away from home, might be returning to unwelcoming home environments. This can have a disastrous impact on mental health: According to recent research from the Trevor Project, over 25 percent of LGBTQ youth who lacked an accepting adult in their life reported attempting suicide in the previous year. LGBTQ youth who did have at least one accepting adult in their life were 40 percent less likely to report a suicide attempt in the previous year. Additionally, Dole notes that many students first embrace their LGBTQ identity in college, whether by finally getting others to use their proper pronouns or by first sharing this identity with others. As such, returning home on such short notice and being physically cut off from the campus community can halt a natural developmental process where young people form their identities within a supportive community.
COVID-19, the official term for the disease caused by the virus, is already impacting the way LGBTQ youth engage with mental health resources: A Trevor Project representative told Mashable via email that nearly 20 percent of its crisis contacts from LGBTQ youth in the last week have mentioned COVID-19.
A representative from the Trevor Project shared a few key tips with Mashable via email. First, just as you’re presumably checking in with loved ones right now, the Trevor Project recommends checking in with LGBTQ friends and family year-round. In interactions with LGBTQ youth, the representative encourages practicing empathy, and listening without judgment, which can help to foster a safe and accepting environment wherever you are. Additionally, try sharing mental health and self-care resources specifically geared towards LGBTQ youth. And finally, if you know of any LGBTQ young person who feels hopeless or suicidal, you should connect them with the Trevor Project’s crisis resources.
Read more at Mashable.com.