The LGBT Community and Depression: What Can Parents Do?

Depression remains one of the most pressing issues in the country, and one of the most overlooked. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, at least 16.2 million people in the US suffered at least one episode of depression. Women are more prone to be depressed than males, or at least double the rate (8.5% against the 4.8%, respectively). Adults between ages 18 and 25 have the highest rate of depression.

While society’s treatment of the LGBT community has improved over the years, there’s no denying that the stigma, bullying and the harassment are still there. For instance, more and more people now support same-sex marriage. In 1977, only 43% believed that gay and lesbians should be in a legal relationship. That number rose to 66% in 2015.

Of course, back then society had a backward view of what homosexuality is. In fact, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders published by the American Psychiatric Association defined homosexuality as a perversion or abnormality. The exact term was “sociopathic personality disturbance.” The implication was that it’s a disorder that can be cured.

LGBT and Suicide Rates

Given how society has not really fully accepted them, the LGBT youth has a higher rate of depression and even suicide rates across all demographics.

In 2015, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention published the Youth Risk Behavior Survey and in that study, the federal agency found that:

  1. 1 in 10 of LGBT youth is threatened or injured by assault right on school property
  2. More than 3 in 10 experienced bullying in school
  3. Nearly 3 in 10 received cyber-threats and cyber-bullying
  4. 18% experienced dating violence
  5. 18% were raped

Meanwhile, the Gay, Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), a non-profit organization, also released its own report which painted an even grimmer picture of what the LGBT youth had to go through when they go out of their homes.

  1. More than 5 in 10 do not feel safe at school
  2. Almost 4 in 10 do not feel safe due to their gender expression
  3. More than 7 in 10 were harassed verbally
  4. More than 5 in 10 were harassed verbally due to their gender expression
  5. 16% experienced physical violence due to their sexual expression

Given all the problems they have to surmount, it’s understandable that the LGBT youth are four times as likely to attempt suicide compared to heterosexuals, reported the CDC.

What Can Parents Do?

It should be noted, however, that some LGBT youth do not feel safe at home. A survey by the Human Rights Campaign revealed that 26% of LGBT members are not being accepted by their family. Instead, they keep their secret in. In fact, more than 7 in 10 of them find solace in the anonymity that online forums provide so they become more open to their sexual orientation and expression when they are on the Internet.

On the flip side, a good number of them (75%) are being accepted by their peers while an even bigger number (90%) said that their close friends accepted them for who they are.

Nevertheless, parents play an important role in instilling confidence in their children to accept their sexual orientation as something normal despite what society thinks. This will result in two things:

  1. They tend to be more open about their feelings and experiences to the parents
  2. The love that they feel at home will provide them a safe haven from all the ugliness outside

Of course, this presumes that the parents already accept their children’s sexual orientation. In which case, they need to attend family therapy with their kids to thresh out all their individual issues.

  1. Have an honest conversation with your kids. You need to help them understand about risky behaviors, especially when it comes to unprotected sex.
  2. Make sure they know that you love them and accept them for who they are.
  3. You have to make an extra effort to learn more about the sexual orientation of your child. With knowledge comes understanding of what they are going through on a daily basis.
  4. Steer clear of stereotypes. Homosexuals are not necessarily as promiscuous as straight ones.
  5. Respect your children’s privacy. They might not be ready to come out to your friends or relatives just yet.
  6. Become an advocate. Make sure to correct all the misconceptions about homosexuality when you have the chance.
  7. Talk to your kid and have them explain to you what their sexual orientation means to them and how they understand it. In this way, you level off with your child and go from there.
  8. Don’t blame yourself. It’s not your fault and neither is it the fault of your kid.

Parents need to understand that it’s not about them. It’s about their kids who are coming to terms with their sexuality. It takes extraordinary courage for a LGBT youth to come out to their parents. Reward their gesture with calmness and serenity. If you are still in shock, apologize and promise your kid that you will talk to them later when you have composed yourself.

Parents should also talk between themselves on the next step. It’s important that they don’t get their signals crossed to avoid confusing their child.

Link Between Depression and Substance Abuse

The problem with children keeping secrets is that they tend to self-medicate. And this is when substance abuse occurs.

Symptoms of Depression:

  1. Hopelessness
  2. Helplessness
  3. Feeling of worthlessness
  4. Anxiety
  5. Sleep disturbance
  6. Weight loss or weight gain
  7. Lethargy
  8. Guilty feelings
  9. Lack of concentration
  10. Loss of interest in school, friends, hobbies
  11. Suicidal thoughts

Depressed people often turn to alcohol or drugs in order to soothe the hollow feeling or the pain they are experiencing. They need an escape to the current predicament they are in. The National Alliance of Mental Illness said that 3 in 10 of the LGBT youth have problems with addiction compared to just nine percent among the heterosexuals. A quarter of the LGBT youth abuse alcohol more than any other substance.

This further complicates their situation because not only are they dealing with a mental disorder, they are also struggling with addiction, as well.

Luxury drug rehab centers have a term for this: dual diagnosis. It’s a co-occurring condition where the mental illness is feeding off the addiction and vice versa. The treatment process also becomes more complicated with all the underlying issues. Rehab may take longer, depending on the patient response. The relapse rate is also higher, especially since they will still face the same challenges when they go out of the safe confines of the treatment facility.

About The Author

Charles L. Watson is a lifelong health and addiction freelance writer. Hoping to express his ideas and thoughts after surviving his own personal issues, he currently writes for A lifelong Detroit Tigers fan, he can be reached on Twitter at the handle @charleswatson00. Full disclosure for the readers of this article, Mr. Watson holds no medical degree or psychological degree.


Statistics Related To GLBT Youth

1) Suicide is the third leading cause of death among 15 to 24 year-olds.

2) Suicide is the second leading cause of death on college campuses.

3) More than one third of LGB youth report having made a suicide attempt.

4) Nearly half of transgender youth have thought seriously about suicide, and one quarter have attempted it.

5) Young gays are two to three times more likely than their straight peers to attempt suicide, according to the Journal of the American Medical Association.

6) The American Counseling Association reports that nearly a third drop out of school, largely because of harassment related to their sexual orientation.

Could Your Teenager Be Gay?

Secretly, many parents hope not. But if the answer is yes, there's a lot of support to help you and your child along the journey.

A few weeks before writing this, I bumped into an acquaintance, a middle-aged woman with two teenage sons. I told her I was working on an article about parents of teens who might be gay. "I'm not sure I'd want to read the article," she said quickly. It surprised me that this liberal-with-a-capital-L woman would display such discomfort at the topic. In the following weeks I'd learn, from parents of gay children across the country, that her reaction wasn't unusual.

"I had absolutely no problem with other kids being gay, just not my own child," one mother of a gay teen told me. "I hoped that if I ignored the signs, it would just go away," said another.

Read moreCould Your Teenager Be Gay?

My Kid Is Gay

My Kid Is Gay  is a first-of-its-kind digital presence, inclusive of videos, advice, and resources, dedicated exclusively toward helping parents understand their Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex, and Asexual children. My Kid Is Gay sources voices from across the world to help answer the many questions that parents (and family members, and even teachers!) have about the LGBTQIA young people in their life, including advice from parents, youth, and experts on a variety of topics related to sexuality and gender identity.

Co-Founders Kristin Russo and Dannielle Owens-Reid are also the authors of This is a Book for Parents of Gay Kids (Chronicle Books), which is a question & answer guide for parents whose kids have recently come out to them!

Wondering on our use of the word “gay”? Read more about it here!
Have a question for one of our writers? You can submit it here!

Note from Mary: This is an EXCELLENT Resource website. I recommend it!

Response To A Mother Who Just Learned Her Daughter Is Gay

Be patient, not only with her, but with yourselves as parents. It’s OK to be upset, concerned, frightened, and worried about the ‘eternal consequences’ of what is happening to your family. Some of your brightest hopes and dreams for your child will need to be adjusted if you are to remain close to her. But really, all those hopes and dreams boil down to this: you want your daughter to have a happy, fulfilling life. And trust those of us who know… she really can. I think the chances of that increase greatly when we accept our true nature and then make the most of what we have been given.

Read moreResponse To A Mother Who Just Learned Her Daughter Is Gay

Family Acceptance

What to do you do if your child is gay?

"On December 17, 1997, when our son Adam told us he was gay, our world was turned upside down. We were absolutely devastated. We desperately needed someone to comfort us, to assure us that our son, our family would be okay. But we were too embarrassed and scared to admit this secret to anyone, to reach out for comfort."

This excellent website is a "must visit" for all parents of gay children!

Family Acceptance Project

Family Acceptance Project – is the only community research, intervention, education and policy initiative that works to decrease major health and related risks for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) youth, such as suicide, substance abuse, HIV and homelessness – in the context of their families. We use a research-based, culturally grounded approach to help ethnically, socially and religiously diverse families decrease rejection and increase support for their LGBT children.

Our team is putting research into practice by developing the first evidence-based family model of wellness, prevention and care to strengthen families and promote positive development and healthy futures for LGBT children and youth. Once developed, we will disseminate our model across the U.S. and to groups we work with in other countries.

Download their booklet Supportive Families – Healthy Children.

Lead With Love – Film & Survey

Film & Survey - Trailer is 2:38 minutes - Full Film is 35:29 minutes

The psychologists in the film give four concrete suggestions for parents. They used the mnemonic LEAD for:

Let your affection show.

Express your pain away from your child.

Avoid rejecting behaviors.

Do good before you feel good.

Click Here to take a 5 minute survey and to see the whole film on their website. The survey is completely anonymous and requires no identifying information, and allows you to omit questions you prefer not to answer.

The movie runs for 35 minutes (well worth the time).

Using Chosen Names Reduces Odds of Depression and Suicide in Transgender Youths

April 11, 2018 - In a recent study, researchers found that the risk of depression and suicide in transgender youths falls when they are allowed to use their chosen name. 

AUSTIN, Texas – In one of the largest and most diverse studies of transgender youths to date, researchers led by a team at The University of Texas at Austin have found that when transgender youths are allowed to use their chosen name in places such as work, school and at home, their risk of depression and suicide drops.   

Read moreUsing Chosen Names Reduces Odds of Depression and Suicide in Transgender Youths

Elementary & Secondary School Resources for Inclusive Education

I am blessed to live in Canada where gay marriage has been legal for many years. I am further blessed that gay marriage was just the beginning, and now I am seeing advancements taking place in our elementary and secondary school systems to actively teach both staff and students about the respect that every individual and family deserves.

Literature has been compiled and laws have been passed to assure a healthy society which respects diversity of all kinds.

Specifically I am pleased that I was granted permission to make available to you the resources that are available to us.

Free Downloads of .pdf files

Equity and Inclusive Eduation StrategyOntario's Equity and Inclusive Education Strategy (34 pages)

Embracing diversity and moving beyond tolerance to acceptance and respect will help us reach our goal of making Ontario's education system the most inclusive in the world. We believe - and research confirms - that students who feel welcome and accepted in their schools are more likely to succeed academically. We believe that everyone in our publicly funded education system - regardless of background or personal circumstances - must be welcomed and accepted, and thereby enabled to reach their highest potential.

Read moreElementary & Secondary School Resources for Inclusive Education

My Parents Won’t Accept Me

This article is the result of a letter to a dear man who requested counseling about the fact that his father will not accept his homosexuality, even after 30 years. His father has told him that he can't be Christian if he is gay. Since this is such a universal problem for us all, I decided to print my response to him, in the hopes that it may help others.

First, there is no way that you are going to change your father's mind about homosexuality. Only the Holy Spirit can do that, so stop trying. Instead, accept that he doesn't accept you, as hard as that is, and then change YOU. I'm not talking about changing your orientation of course. I'm talking about changing your attitude about needing your father's acceptance. We all want to be accepted by our parents, but sometimes that just doesn't happen, so we need to live our lives in the reality of today, not in the hope that someone else will change in the future.

Read moreMy Parents Won’t Accept Me