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A student wears a pride flag on their graduation mortar board.

LGBTQ+ young adults are more likely than their non-LGBTQ+ peers to experience loneliness and suicidal ideation.

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Nationally, young people report high levels of mental health concerns, and recent studies point to a greater need among LGBTQ+ students, requiring institutions of higher education to provide targeted resources and support for these learners.

A May 1 report from The Trevor Project, which supports young people who belong to the LGBTQ+ community in the U.S., found one in 10 LGBTQ+ youth (aged 13 to 24) attempted suicide in the past year, and half of respondents who wanted mental health care in the past year were not able to get it.

Similarly, a May 22 survey from TimelyCare and Active Minds found 70 percent of LGBQ+ college students experience loneliness, 10 percentage points higher than their non-LGBQ+ peers (transgender and nonbinary students were categorized separately in the survey).

State of play: Around 7.6 percent of Americans identify as LGBTQ+ and among Gen Z (born 1997 to 2012), 22.3 percent identify as LGBTQ+, according to March data from Gallup.

For several years, LGBTQ+ young people in the U.S. have shared they have higher levels of anxiety and sadness, compared to their peers. Recent legislation at the state and federal level have also complicated LGBTQ+ affairs in higher education.

In athletics, transgender athletes have faced bans that would require them to participate in sports based on their sex at birth, rather than their gender identity.

LGBTQ+ students, along with other underrepresented minority groups, have been impacted by anti-diversity, equity and diversity bills in several states that limit specialized resources for student groups.

The Biden administration expanded sex discrimination protections under Title IX to LGBTQ+ students, which was met by swift backlash from Republican officials and conservative groups who hope to block the new regulations.

Ninety percent of LGBTQ+ young people said recent politics impacted their well-being at least somewhat, and half said it negatively impacted them “a lot” (53 percent), according to the Trevor Project’s survey.


The Trevor Project surveyed 18,663 LGBTQ+ people aged 13 to 24 in the U.S, which includes persons who have a sexual orientation other than heterosexual, a gender other than cisgender or both.

TimelyCare and Active Minds’ survey featured 1,089 students aged 18 to 26, 461 of whom are LGBTQ+ and 125 who are transgender, nonbinary or questioning. This survey differentiates between LGBQ+ individuals (including lesbian, gay, bisexual, pansexual, queer and questioning) and those who hold a different gender identity than cisgender.

New findings: The two new studies highlight current and present needs to create wraparound and holistic aid for students from minority genders and sexualities.

Among LGBTQ+ youth nationally, the Trever Project’s study revealed:

  • One-third of young adults (aged 18 to 24 years) considered suicide and 8 percent attempted suicide in the past year.
  • Almost two-thirds (65 percent) of young adults experienced symptoms of anxiety and 49 percent experienced symptoms of depression.
  • The majority of LGBTQ+ young people (84 percent) wanted mental health care in the past year, but half of these youth were not able to access it in that time period. The primary barrier was a fear around seeking help, with 42 percent of respondents saying they were afraid to talk about their mental health concerns with someone else, and 40 percent cited financial barriers to care.
  • Just under one-third of students have been verbally harassed at school because others thought they were LGBTQ+ and 7 percent left a school because the mistreatment was so bad.

Among current college students, TimelyCare and Active Minds’ study found:

  • One-third of LGBQ+ college students feel like they’re often isolated from others, 26 percent often feel left out and 22 percent feel like they lack companionship.
  • LGBQ+ college students who experience higher levels of psychological distress are 20 percent more likely to report feelings of loneliness than those who experience lower levels.
  • Transgender, nonbinary or gender-questioning students are more likely to agree that they are concerned about their friends’ mental health (63 percent) and agree that helping their friends take care of their mental health is important (60 percent), compared to their cisgender peers.
  • Three in five LGBQ+ students say they’re concerned about their friends’ mental health and 57 percent say they believe in helping their friends take care of their mental health.

How to help: For higher education leaders and practitioners looking to better support LGBTQ+ young people at their institution, research points to these four themes:

  • Promote belonging. TimelyCare and Active Mind’s study found students who had family and friend support and a more positive perception of how their college or university values and prioritizes mental health may find more connection and less loneliness. Therefore, higher education leaders should prioritize belonging and interpersonal connection among LGBTQ+ learners. Respondents to the Trevor Project study said the best way to provide support and acceptance is to trust that the individual knows who they are (88 percent) and stand up for them (81 percent).
  • Facilitate connection. In-person or virtual spaces can help build relationships among students. An LGBTQ+ resource center can provide a shared space for students who share minority gender or sexuality identities and can minimize risk of self-harm among students. Centers can also provide education to those outside of the LGBTQ+ community. California State University, Fullerton, announced in April it would open a resource center to promote connection, support and exploration among LGBTQ+ issues.
  • Consider LGBTQ+ issues in policy. Sometimes, campus facilities and academic settings exclude LGBTQ+ individuals unintentionally, including bathrooms or housing or field research structures. Removing these barriers can be key in reducing suicide risk for students; transgender and nonbinary young people who had access to gender-neutral bathrooms at school, had their pronouns respected by people they live with and had access to gender-affirming clothing had lower rates of attempting suicide. Administrators and researchers should consider ways to promote LGBTQ+ safety as they pursue their academics and extracurriculars.
  • Hire LGBTQ+ staff and administrators. Higher education practitioners can aid in helping address students’ mental health concerns. The Trevor Project found 78 percent of young people in school (both K-12 and higher ed) had at least one adult who is supportive and affirming of their LGBTQ+ identity. One study found professors who reveal their stigmatized identities, such as being LGBTQ+ or a first-generation college student, can provide role models for learners. A director or manager of LGBTQ+ affairs can also lead institutional efforts to promote student success among queer learners.

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