In recent years, there has been a significant increase in mental health disorders among youth. LGBTQ+ youth are at an even greater risk for developing mental health problems, mainly due to the discrimination, rejection, and bullying they face. According to The Trevor Project, LGBTQ+ youth who have experienced discrimination were more than twice as likely to attempt suicide in the past year compared to youth who did not experience this. LGBTQ+ youth mental health is in danger, and it is important to prioritize the care they need and deserve.
What is Digital Mental Health?
With almost half of the world connected to the internet, being online and using social media have become an integral part of our lives. Digital mental health is a growing field that helps prevent mental health issues by providing innovative tools/solutions to assist those in need. Digital mental health is defined as a service that targets mental health problems via online and mobile technologies. With telehealth appointments available on a tablet, smartphone, or computer, it can be much easier for people to access than in-person appointments.
Other forms of digital mental health include self-guided platforms like Neolth. These platforms allow for user personalization and provide beneficial resources and education, all with convenience and affordability. Although still very popular before, digital mental health platforms grew rapidly during the COVID-19 pandemic due to quarantine measures. According to the European Connected Health Alliance, there are more than 380,000 health apps available, with 20,000 of them addressing mental health specifically.
How Digital Mental Health Benefits Youth
Nearly 1 in 5 adolescents experience a mental health disorder each year, but face barriers to accessing and seeking care. The failure to address mental health issues at their onset can lead to damaging consequences throughout a person’s life. With a huge part of youth’s lives taking place in the digital space, digital mental health has become more relevant, and shown great benefits. Young people use the internet as a trusted source of information, as well as an easy way to start talking about mental health.
One reason for this is that digital spaces enable more anonymous interactions compared to face to face meetings. Therefore, the flexibility and anonymity that digital spaces create allow youth to avoid and eliminate the social stigma of mental health issues. The flexibility of digital mental health platforms empower youth to learn about their own mental health needs at their own pace, at any time of the day, providing 24/7 support. Support can be accessed from their own home, taking away the travel time to an office. This is especially beneficial to students, as the easier access and flexibility that these platforms have allows them to fit self-care into their busy academic schedules.
In a world that currently emphasizes hard work and perfectionism, and normalizes anxiety and depression, youth mental health is at an all time low. Neolth is just one example of a self-guided digital mental health care option, providing education and resources which reduce the stigma of mental health. Neolth provides personalized care, at an affordable cost with convenient access.
How Digital Mental Health Benefits LGBTQ+ Youth
LGBTQ+ youth face many barriers to accessing affirmative mental health treatments. Digital mental health gives this community an opportunity for better and safer mental health care. Feelings of isolation are common in this community, as LGBTQ+ youth need the same validating, inclusive, and comforting communities as their peers. Digital mental health provides opportunities for this through connection, a sense of belonging, and providing accurate information about sexuality and gender (Cohen et al., 2022). LGBTQ+ youth struggle to access in-person healthcare. For some, a lack of parental support leaves them unhoused, uninsured, or otherwise unable to get the care they need. With digital mental health more financially accessible, available without travel, accessible at all hours, and with no waitlist, it is extremely beneficial for youth who experience barriers to traditional care (Gilbey et al., 2020).
Digital mental health helps youth who are conflicted about coming out, and can provide resources and support for doing so. Adolescence in general is a difficult and confusing time, but for LGBTQ+ youth especially as they navigate a world that often scrutinizes and doesn’t accept their true identities. Digital mental health can provide education on sex, gender expression and identity, and sexual identity, as well as affirming resources for the stress of coping with these. The anonymity of digital platforms minimizes the fear of being stigmatized and judged by others through this critical time.
Digital mental health platforms not only provide resources and education, but also virtual support systems/friends. Digital mental health platforms can help foster new connections among individuals who are going through similar experiences. LGBTQ+ youth can find others who are going through the same struggles, or who can provide advice on past experiences. With LGBTQ+ youth mental health issues on the rise, it is important to bring awareness to the prominent benefits that digital mental health provides to this community.
Neolth & LGBTQ+ Youth
If you are a school staff administrator, counselor, or parentwho is looking for new solutions to support LGBTQ+ youth mental health, Neolth is a digital stress and mental health support program for students and educators. We’re on a mission to help youth stress less, build resilience, and become a part of our compassionate community. Our app helps youth when they’re feeling overwhelmed with self-guided content, personalized for your mental health journey. With educational and stigma-reducing content about identity exploration, coping with discrimination, and building resilience, Neolth is designed to support youth struggling with their identity. You can learn more at neolth.com or sign up today at cloud.neolth.com.
Gilbey, D., Morgan, H., Lin, A., & Perry, Y. (2020). Effectiveness, acceptability, and feasability of digital health interventions for LGBTIQ+ young people: Systematic review. Journal of Medical Internet Research, 22(12). https://doi.org/10.2196/20158
About the Author:
Ali Green (she/her) is an Editorial Intern at Neolth, and a rising undergraduate senior at Emory University. As a student studying psychology, she found a huge passion for mental health. Upon discovering Neolth and then becoming accepted as an editorial intern, she became super excited to be able to bring awareness, education, and resources to students worldwide. She believes that it is important to create more accessible education and support around mental health issues to reduce stigmas and increase understanding. Outside of school, she enjoys spending time with friends and family, graphic design, and reading!