As of 2023, 41% of LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. It is important to note that LGBTQ+ youth are not more likely to consider attempting suicide due to their sexual orientation or gender identity, rather it is because of their mistreatment and the stigmatization in society. Within the 41%, 14% actually made an attempt. Additionally, 56% of LGBTQ+ youth who wanted mental health care did not receive it due to fear of being stigmatized from professionals, parents, and peers. Coming out can be a major factor in one’s mental health as well. The ability to openly be yourself can increase self-esteem and confidence as you are no longer hiding your identity. However, coming out also creates a lot of fear for LGBTQ+ youth due to encountering negative responses from peers and family members who may not be accepting.
What Does it Mean to ‘Come Out?’
Coming out refers to the process of letting others’ know how you identify in terms of romantic orientation, sexual orientation, or gender identity. It is a lifelong process that also includes coming out to oneself. Sometimes, we even have our own judgments and biases. It is important to treat yourself with compassion during this time, as well as openness. Be curious, rather than judgemental.
Although coming out allows one to be their true selves, it can also be a very scary process. Many fear letting their family down, as well as their family not accepting them for who they are. There is also the fear of telling peers, as especially in schools, this can lead to bullying and the use of stereotypes and negative labels. LGBTQ+ youth experience higher rates of bullying than straight and cisgender peers, with the majority of LGBTQ+ youth (52%) in middle and high school being bullied. Whether you are coming from an supportive environment or not, coming out is a huge decision, and one everyone must make on their own timeline.
It may help youth to find a community to connect with. It is common for youth to feel alone and confused in the process of understanding their identity. Finding a community where others’ are going through the same thing can help with these feelings, as well as lead to feelings of safety, comfort, and validation. There is power in being surrounded by people who can relate and directly understand you. Trevor Space is one example of an online community for LGBTQ+ youth to make friends, find support, and gain advice.
Hiding one’s identity can lead to increased feelings of anxietydue to fear of ‘slipping up’ or thinking about how a loved one will feel about their true identity. It has also been shown that doing so can make youth more vulnerable to depression, anger, anxiety, fear, stress, and thoughts of suicide. Therefore, research has shown that people who decide to come out tend to have less chronic stress, as well as fewer depressive symptoms.
Coming out can facilitate the development of deeper romantic relationships. Connection is a great source of improving mental health and happiness. Coming out can be freeing, especially if you have lived in the shadows for so long.
Coming out can also bring new potential challenges. 28% of LGBTQ+ youth reported experiencing homelessness or home instability at some point in their lives. This can also lead to future unemployment and poverty issues, which this community is particularly vulnerable to. Additionally, coming out can lead to a loss of social support from friends and family. LGBTQ+ youth need ongoing support as they navigate their physical and psychological health in current society.
Importance of Mental Health Support
No matter where you are in your journey of coming out, you deserve mental health support. Additionally, not everyone decides to come out and that is okay! Some people may come out really early, some really late, some never. The best time is whenever the individual feels it is right for them.
No matter the situation, it's important to have proper mental health support. This includes therapy, a good social support system (in person or online), and self-care. For LGBTQ+ youth, digital mental health platforms can be a great form of support, as it is easily accessible, personalized, and anonymous. Neolth is a great example of one of these platforms, as it provides individualized resources, support, and education, as well as personal student stories. Remember that you are not alone, and you are not an exception. You deserve to feel heard and validated.
Neolth is a digital stress and mental health support program for students and educators. We’re on a mission to help you stress less, build resilience, and become a part of our compassionate community. Our app helps you when you’re feeling overwhelmed with self-guided content, personalized for your mental health journey. Neolth has a growing community of Student Ambassadors from 170 schools and works with schools to improve access to mental health support for their students and teachers alike. You can learn more at neolth.com or sign up today at cloud.neolth.com.
About the Author:
Ali Green (she/her) is the Lead 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.