written by Naveen Kassamali, LMFT
Schools can be difficult environments for students, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, but they are often especially challenging for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBTQ+) youth. Bullying and discrimination against LGBTQ+ students is rampant in schools across the country. An article by the Human Rights Watch captured students’ experiences in school: “I’ve been shoved into lockers, and sometimes people will just push up on me to check if I have boobs,” said Kevin I., a 17-year-old transgender boy in Utah. He added that school administrators dismissed his complaints of verbal and physical abuse, blaming him for being “so open about it.”
This lack of understanding and persistent pattern of mistreatment has created isolation and marginalization for LGBTQ+ students. Feeling unsafe, unwelcome, and being misgendered at school can impact health and well-being. Being addressed with the wrong pronouns is also detrimental to mental health: As described by a 17-year old non-binary student, “It doesn’t seem like a big deal, but eventually you bruise.” 70.8% of LGBTQ+ youth have experienced such discrimination and homophobia, which leads to increased risk in suicidality.
Schools have ensured policies and resources to help the LGBTQ+ community, but is that enough? In focus groups we’ve conducted with LGBTQ+ youth, they’ve said they would benefit from on-demand, confidential resources that they can access when they are in difficult emotional states.
For some LGBTQ+ youth, Neolth may be that resource. A mental health app for teens and young adults, Neolth has content made for LGBTQ+ youth. Neolth’s Community section includes conversations with clinicians and students about mental health, both in pre-recorded videos and livestream events.
Dr. Robin Brody, a Postdoctoral Fellow at Weill Cornell Medicine’s Program for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Studies, worked with Neolth to create an on-demand video series about LGBTQ+ mental health. Dr. Brody discussed various topics, including:
Exploring your identity
Managing anxiety around sexual identity
Being an ally
Katie Leikam, a WPATH certified psychotherapist and gender specialist, recently spent time with the 200+ youth in Neolth’s Student Ambassador Program. She participated in a live Q&A with students from around the country about mental health. The conversation covered the following topics. A recording is available in Neolth’s community section:
Addressing LGBTQ+ discrimination
Speaking to parents about your identity
Finding an LGBTQ+ therapist
Recovering from religious trauma
LGBTQ+ supportive faith
Having on-demand access to this content is beneficial for LGBTQ+ youth because they can feel less isolated when they know that other people are struggling with similar issues. They can also watch these videos from the privacy of a phone or computer, to learn about these topics and how to access mental health resources.
Neolth is grateful for the clinicians who have worked with us to support LGBTQ+ youth. Thank you Dr. Brody and Katie!
Neolth provides stress and mental health support to students by delivering on-demand, self-guided care. Neolth screens students for social-emotional needs and recommends personalized relaxation practices, videos and livestream events that build resilience, educate and reduce stigma. Neolth makes real-time referrals to crisis resources and can share students’ progress with school stakeholders.
About Robin Brody: Dr. Brody is a Postdoctoral Fellow at Weill Cornell Medicine’s Program for Anxiety and Traumatic Stress Studies. More info at https://patss.weill.cornell.edu/about-us/our-team
About Katie Leikam: Katie is a gender therapist and private practice owner who is WPATH GEI SOC v7 Certified. She serves the LGBTQIA, transgender, non-binary and genderqueer community with mental health wellness. She works with her clients on gender identity, anxiety, depression, relationship stress, family and religious trauma, and coming out to others. She sees clients from Georgia, Florida, South Carolina and North Carolina. More info at https://katieleikam.com/