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Some LGBTQ Youth Find Hard Times At Home


Sheltering in place can be stressful on its own, but especially so for young people who identify as LGBTQ who are now with families they once left. NPR's Patti Neighmond reports.

PATTI NEIGHMOND, BYLINE: For many of these young people, college is a refuge from years of rejection and discrimination in high school, and even from family members.

MEGAN MOONEY: A lot of young people, when they make it to college, are able to, for the first time, really live their truth.

NEIGHMOND: It's a life-affirming new world, says psychologist Megan Mooney. They can now date who they want, dress as they choose.

MOONEY: Access medical care and treatments that they weren't able to before and access mental health care that they weren't able to before. Being out of the home and away at college is a lifeline to a lot of LGBTQ people.

NEIGHMOND: Mooney works with children, teens and young adults. She says for LGBTQ students, returning to the family home can be traumatizing all over again and lead to an exacerbation of mental health problems.

MOONEY: Such as significant major depressive disorders, post-traumatic stress disorder, anxiety disorders.

NEIGHMOND: The Trevor Project is a large suicide prevention and crisis intervention organization for LGBTQ young people. CEO Amit Paley says this pandemic has taken a tragic toll.

AMIT PALEY: Our call volume has more than doubled. There are just so many young people who are impacted and scared and frightened in an unsafe or challenging situation, and many of them are reaching out for help and to talk about what they're going through.

NEIGHMOND: Calls have gone from 3,000 a week to more than 6,000. Many of these young people are distraught leaving accepting college environments. It can be especially painful, says Paley, for those who are transgender.

PALEY: And now you're forced back into this confined home environment where not only you don't have those normal sources of support, but you may have parents who are calling you by a name that is different than the name that you are using in most of your life, who may be referring to you with gender and pronoun markers that are not who you really are. And that can be incredibly difficult for LGBTQ youth right now.

NEIGHMOND: Some families, of course, are supportive, says Paley, and some are trying their best. But there are heartbreaking stories, he says, of extreme rejection and hostility.

PALEY: We hear stories about parents who say things to their children that you couldn't possibly imagine someone could say.

NEIGHMOND: The emotional damage that rejecting parents can have, he says, is enormous.

PALEY: We know that LGBTQ youth who have rejecting families are eight times more likely to attempt suicide than those who do not.

NEIGHMOND: Conversely, a recent Trevor Project survey found that just having one supportive adult in a young person's life reduces their risk of suicide by 40%.

PALEY: And that's why we really want to make sure that every adult and every family member is really thinking about how they can come from a place of love and support and acceptance, because it can save lives.

NEIGHMOND: And keeping connected with supportive friends and social groups is also critical. Psychologist Mary Alvord.

MARY ALVORD: There's so many different platforms, you know, whether you're using TikTok or Instagram or Twitter, but there are many ways to connect with people.

NEIGHMOND: And it's important to remember the hopelessness many young people may feel now, she says, is not going to last forever.

ALVORD: When we have moments to ourselves, we can actually remember the times where we were in a good place and in a good space and our identities were affirmed and really keep that in mind that we can go back to that.

NEIGHMOND: Hope for the future, she says, helps young people feel less alone, which can make all the difference.

Patti Neighmond, NPR News.

SIMON: And if you or someone you know is feeling hopeless or suicidal, contact The Trevor Project's lifeline anytime at 1-866-488-7386.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC) Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Award-winning journalist Patti Neighmond is NPR's health policy correspondent. Her reports air regularly on NPR newsmagazines All Things Considered, Morning Edition, and Weekend Edition.
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