There’s no denying that the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted almost everyone in some way. But, for LGBTQ+ youth around the country, the effects were even worse.
First, this group is already at high risk for mental health struggles. According to The Trevor Project, more than 1.8 million LGBTQ+ youth across the country contemplate suicide each year. Studies are already emerging about how the pandemic will cause lasting mental health problems for many. This demographic isn’t immune to those struggles, and the lasting effects may be worse.
Not only was the isolation difficult, but some LGBTQ+ youth in the area and across the country found themselves in danger just from being at home. Many kids and teens rely on their friends for support and comfort, especially if their parents or family members don’t approve of their lifestyle. Without being able to go to school or even leave the home, those support systems crumbled. Some youths faced more arguments, rejection, and even violence.
It’s not an easy thing to talk about, but that’s what makes the impact of COVID-19 on LGBTQ+ youth so important. Let’s dive a bit deeper into how they were impacted, and what you can do to help now and in the future.
When a Home is a Dangerous Place
Studies have shown that there was an increase in domestic violence across the country throughout the pandemic, likely brought on by the stress of several factors, including:
- The sudden closure of schools and workplaces
- Fear of the unknown
- Strained family dynamics
It’s not uncommon for LGBTQ+ kids to experience either verbal or physical abuse in their lifetimes – even at home. One study discovered that 34% of LGBTQ+ individuals have suffered physical violence from their own parents as a result of their sexual orientation.
With tempers already flaring and stress at an all-time high, the home was not a safe haven for so many young kids and teens throughout this pandemic. Many were already struggling with the mental health issues surrounding isolation, loss, depression, and even grief. Adding in fear on top of those things can make it difficult to want to stay under the same roof as an abuser.
That brings us to our next point – LGBTQ+ youth are 120% more likely to experience homelessness than their straight counterparts.
The Homelessness Factor
Several factors play into that statistic. Obviously, the biggest and most important is the disapproval from family members. Sometimes, things get so bad that it’s more dangerous to live under the same roof than to leave home.
LGBTQ+ youth from low-income families or in underserved areas are also more likely to experience homelessness. That created a digital divide when most kids had to make the switch to online learning at the height of the pandemic. Students from low-income families or who were out on their own didn’t have the resources they need to further their education, including:
- A computer
- A printer
- School software
Not having those items only served to separate and isolate LGBTQ+ students from their peers even more. Some may have fallen behind and will have a difficult time catching up. Others may not make up the work at all and choose to drop out of school.
What Can You Do?
Needless to say, everything the LGBTQ+ youth community went through during COVID-19 wasn’t pretty. Now, however, there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. With vaccines allowing states to open back up, now is your opportunity to support the LGBTQ+ youth in your area, and nationwide. There are plenty of ways to do that through volunteering, donating, or even helping any kids/teens you know find ways to de-stress and work through their struggles.
Be sure to guide and navigate the local youth however you can, pointing them toward resources that can help them with any mental health struggles. Young adults and teens might not know about mental health financial assistance, such as Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). Depressive, bipolar, and anxiety disorders that prevent someone from working can make them eligible to receive supplemental income.
Additionally, encourage simple solutions that can make a difference. Suggest support groups. Send them links to online forums. Any way you can connect with LGBTQ+ youths today will make them stronger in the future.
If you really want to help and get involved, consider becoming a youth counselor. Many counseling centers had to shut down during COVID-19, limiting the help and support for LGBTQ+ youth across the country. Eventually, telehealth became increasingly prominent and popular, giving those kids a sense of hope and security. Youth counselors need to be active listeners, critical thinkers, and extremely empathetic. If that sounds like you and you want to help, it’s more than worth it to get your degree.
The pandemic may be coming to an end, but the damage has been done. Thankfully, it doesn’t need to last. Educate yourself as much as possible when it comes to how the LGBTQ+ youth of this country were affected. The more you know, the more you’ll want to step up and help in the future.