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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.