This article was published on May 16th, 2022
The Springtide Research Institute recently released a new report, Mental Health & Gen Z: What Educators Need to Know, featuring the findings from more than 3,000 surveys and 80 interviews completed by middle school, high school, and college students, including 999 students identifying as sexual minorities (LGBQ+).
The study found that LGBTQ+ students experience a higher rates of substance misuse, suicidal ideation, depression, in addition to academic and extracurricular disengagement compared to their non-LGBTQ+ peers.
The global pandemic also factored into the study, with students reporting that the COVID crisis only exacerbated these discrepancies, the report found. Nearly all counselors and administrators surveyed said that COVID-19 worsened symptoms of depression, anxiety, loneliness, and difficulty coping with stress among LGBTQ+ students. Anxiety ranked as one of the top-presenting issue among the LGBTQ+ students, with several citing depression and family concerns – including fear of coming out and acceptance of their identity – as the primary concern among LGBTQ+ students.
Location Played a Crucial Role In The LGBTQ+ Experience
The location of LGBTQ+ students and where they attend university greatly impacted the overall experience as well. And large percentage of those surveyed reported that their high school, college, or university is a top LGBTQ+-affirming space. However, the report found that students in states that lack adequate protections for LGBTQ+ individuals experienced more stress and felt less supported by their institutions.
Transgender and Non-Binary Students Face Elevated Risks
The report found that risk factors associated with transgender and non-binary students include gender-segregated facilities, locker rooms and housing, and the inability to put their chosen names and pronouns into student databases. Some students at several universities and schools conducted sit-in to protest these policies.
Here are some of the top-line findings on LGBQ+ students discovered from the extensive study:
- 47% feel lonely at school often or most of the time, compared to 31% of straight students.
- 41% have been medicated or hospitalized for mental health issues, compared to 23% of straight students.
- 55% currently see or have seen a mental health professional in the past, compared to 34% of straight students.
- Only 44% feel comfortable talking to adults in their lives about mental health issues, compared to 61% of straight students.
- 69% agree, “A school counselor/therapist might not understand me or the challenges I am having,” compared to 58% of straight students.
- 52% agree, “My parents/guardians do not take my mental health concerns seriously,” compared to 41% of straight students.
- Only 49% feel safe at school sharing things about their lives, compared to 61% of straight students.
- 28% say they want to do better work when adults at school are openly supportive of them, compared to 20% of straight students.
- Only 51% “feel safe being my full self with most adults at my school and expressing that outwardly,” compared to 65% of straight students.
LGBTQ+ Students Demand Better Protections and Regulations
In the report, it became quite clear: LGBTQ+ students want their institutions to have a clear process for reporting, responding to victimization, and to establish non-discrimination policies that include sexual orientation, gender expression, and gender identity. Institutions must also provide LGBTQ+-focused training and education to students, faculty, coaches, administrators, board members, and residential communities for LGBTQ+ students.
The process to change outdated laws remains an uphill battle for the LGBTQ+ community, and when looking at actual legislation and school policies to change structures — gender-inclusive facilities, gender-inclusive language on websites, gender-inclusive housing – these are being handled very slowly. What are your thoughts on the current regulations affecting students? Let HomoCulture know in the comments section below.