All Black Lives Matter: Mental Health of Black LGBTQ Youth

 *A version of this post will appear in the BCALA Newsletter. 

Mental Health is not getting the attention it deserves. It is being overshadowed by COVID-19 and many other disparities in this country.  Mental health is a vital conversation that needs to be addressed even before the pandemic. It is misdiagnosed and is not really referred to as a medical condition. When mental health is discussed, it is based on the context of adults, right? What about young people between the ages of 13-24? Young people’s mental health concerns are just as high as those of adults if not higher. How does this pertain to librarianship?  We are faced with many populations that walk through our doors that are struggling on a daily basis without realizing it. We serve a great population of youth that look happy and may be experiencing some form of trauma. This is important if you are involved with trauma-informed librarianship. These statistics mentioned in this report can be vital to research for anyone who needs it.

The Trevor Project took the discussion even further when they conducted a survey on LGBTQ+ youth and mental health.  They took it even further when discussing the intersectionality of African American LGBTQ+ youth and mental health.  The Trevor Project, based on an award winning short film, Trevor, is a national organization providing crisis intervention for the LGBTQ+ youth community. 

According to the Trevor Project:

Black LGBTQ youth report rates of mental health challenges comparable to or higher than the overall population of LGBTQ youth. These youth are confronted with risk factors that are not only similar to those of other LGBTQ youth but are also very different, such as racial discrimination. Black transgender and nonbinary youth are particularly susceptible. We must confront systemic barriers to Black LGBTQ mental health and well-being.

For youth-serving organizations to be inclusive of Black LGBTQ youth, they must approach their work with the dual lenses of LGBTQ inclusion and anti-racism. Further, organizations working to support youth well-being must acknowledge that efforts to improve mental health cannot be “one-size-fits-all,” and, rather, must fit the needs of Black LGBTQ youth, both those that are similar to all LGBTQ youth and those that are unique. This is particularly true for Black transgender and nonbinary youth. Researchers must do more to prioritize the experiences of Black LGBTQ youth in order to inform best practices.

Did You Know…

According to the Trevor Project, statistics are as follows:

Black LGBTQ+ identified as…

  • 31% of Black LGBTQ+ youth identified as gay or lesbian, 35 % as bisexual, 20% as pansexual, and 9% as queer
  • One in three Black LGBTQ+ youth identified as transgender or nonbinary
  • More than 1 in 4 Black LGBTQ+ youth use pronouns or pronoun combinations that fall outside of the binary construction of gender.

Black LGBTQ+ youth often report mental health challenges, including suicidal ideation.

  • 44% of Black LGBTQ+ youth seriously considered suicide in the past 12 months, including 59% of Black transgender and nonbinary youth
  • 55% of Black LGBTQ youth reported symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder in the past two weeks, including 70% of Black transgender and nonbinary youth
  • 63% of Black LGBTQ+ youth report symptoms of major depressive disorder including 71% of Black transgender and nonbinary youth
  • Self-harm was reported in 44% of Black LBGTQ+ youth, including 61% of Black transgender and nonbinary youth
  • 49% of Black LGBTQ+ youth reported wanting psychological or emotional counseling from a mental health professional in the past 12 months, but not being able to get it

Many risk factors for Black LGBTQ+ youth mental health.

  • 9% of Black LGBTQ+ youth reported having undergone conversion therapy, with 82% reporting it happened before age 18
  • 35% of Black LGBTQ+ youth have experienced homelessness, been kicked out, or run away
  • 38% of Black LGBTQ+ youth reported discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity
  • 52% of Black LGBTQ+ youth reported discrimination based on their race or ethnicity
  • 17% of Black LGBTQ+ youth reported that they had been physically threatened or harmed in their lifetime due to their LGBTQ+ identity
  • 25% of Black transgender and nonbinary youth reported that they had been physically threatened or harmed in their lifetime due to their gender identity.

Identified high impact protective factors for Black LGBTQ+ youth.

  • 82% of Black LGBTQ+ youth reported at least one supportive person in their life
  • Black transgender and nonbinary youth who reported high family support had lower rates of attempted suicide
  • 82% of Black LGBTQ+ youth report access to at least one in-person LGBTQ+ LGBTQ+-affirming space
  • Black youth who had access to at least one LGBTQ+-affirming space attempted suicide at 50% lower rates compared to Black LGBTQ+ youth without access”

This Research Report was published in 2020.  To access this report for more information, please click on the link .

Additional Support Resources:

GLSEN

“As GLSEN was founded by a group of teachers in 1990, we knew that educators play key roles in creating affirming learning environments for LGBTQ youth. But as well as activating supportive educators, we believe in centering and uplifting student-led movements, which have powered initiatives like the Day of Silence, Ally Week, and more.”

BEAM (Black Emotional and Mental Health)

“We are a collective of advocates, yoga teachers, artists, therapists, lawyers, religious leaders, teachers, psychologists and activists committed to the emotional/mental health and healing of Black communities”

WeRNative

“We are a comprehensive health resource for Native youth, by Native youth, providing content and stories about the topics that matter most to them. We strive to promote holistic health and positive growth in our local communities and nation at large.”

Rest for Resistance

“Rest for Resistance strives to uplift marginalized communities, those who rarely get access to adequate health care or social support. This includes Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Pacific Islander, Asian, Middle Eastern, and multiracial persons.

We also seek to create healing space for LGBTQIA+ individuals, namely trans & queer people of color, as well as other stigmatized groups such as sex workers, immigrants, persons with physical and/or mental disabilities, and those living at the intersections of all of the above.”

The Steve Fund

“The Steve Fund is the nation’s leading organization focused on supporting the mental health and emotional well-being of young people of color.  The Steve Fund works with colleges and universities, non-profits, researchers, mental health experts, families, and young people to promote programs and strategies that build understanding and assistance for the mental and emotional health of the nation’s young people of color.”

 

Guest post by Monica Porter, Public Services Librarian, University of Michigan, University Library

Who am I? Monica Porter, Access and Public Services Librarian, University of Michigan, University Library.  I live in Ypsilanti, Michigan and originally from Detroit, Michigan.  I was a more mature MLIS student and earned my degree in 2017.   I  received my B.S. degree from Eastern Michigan University in 2014.  My major was English Language and minor African American Studies.

 I have a specialized area of 14-26 young adult services at University of Michigan, University Library in Ann Arbor. I was promoted to Assistant Librarian in February 2020 after being an Access Services Supervisor for the majority of my career at the university.   My unit work is Library Operations with the focus on Access Services.  I have worked at the University of Michigan Libraries for 18 years.  I also worked for Detroit Public Library for 15 years as a Senior Library Clerk and was a Substitute Librarian for Ypsilanti District Library.  

One of my current responsibilities is to develop programming with our campus partners, local youth community advocates and schools for young people, especially young people of Color to make sure they have the resources needed for success.

July is BIPOC Mental Health Month

BIPOC Mental Health
Image from NAMI Seattle

In the last four months, our country has faced a barrage of racism and fear due to COVID-19. In addition to the pandemic, the death of George Floyd has fueled a movement to call out systematic racism and police brutality and demand justice. While teens all over the country are seeing and feeling the effects of these events, Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) teens need support more than ever, which is why we need to talk about BIPOC Mental Health Month.

According to Mental Health America (MHA):

“Formally recognized in June 2008, Bebe Moore Campbell National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month has been observed each July and was created to bring awareness to the unique struggles that underrepresented groups face regarding mental illness in the United States.

Bebe Moore Campbell was an American author, journalist, teacher, and mental health advocate who worked tirelessly to shed light on the mental health needs of the Black community and other underrepresented communities.

People and language evolve, and Mental Health America (MHA) has chosen to remove the word “minority” from our toolkit and will be phasing it out on our materials. Instead, we are using a different designation – BIPOC – that we believe more fairly honors and distinguishes the experiences of Blacks, Indigenous People, and People of Color.

In an effort to continue the visionary work of Bebe Moore Campbell, each year MHA develops a public education campaign dedicated to addressing the needs of BIPOC.” Continue reading July is BIPOC Mental Health Month