Senate Democrats introduce bill to improve mental health services for LGBTQ+ youth

Author: John Russell

Senate Democrats have introduced a bill to help improve mental health services for LGBTQ+ young people.

If passed, the bill would award grants for mental health services to eligible organizations to assess and improve mental health and substance use outcomes for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, nonbinary, intersex, and Two Spirit youth. The bill requires eligible organizations to use funding to provide cultural competency training for caregivers, develop and disseminate behavioral health and crisis intervention resources specifically for LGBTQ+ youth along with guidelines to prevent anti-LGBTQ+ school bullying, and integrate behavioral health services for LGBTQ+ youth in schools.

The bill would also prohibit funds being used for anything related to so-called “conversion therapy” and commission a report on mental health outcomes for LGBTQ+ young people in foster care and other federal social services programs.

A press release Thursday announcing the bill’s introduction cited a 2023 study from the Trevor Project, which found that 54 percent of LGBTQ+ youth reported symptoms of depression, compared to only 35 percent of heterosexual youth, as well as a 2021 study indicating LGBTQ+ high school students are also four times more likely than heterosexual students to attempt suicide. Thursday’s release those disparities to discrimination and lack of a supportive community in schools or at home.

Butler, the first Black and openly LGBTQ+ senator to serve in the U.S. Senate, noted that it has become increasingly difficult to access mental healthcare across the country. “Barriers get even more difficult if you are a young person who lacks a supportive community or is fearful of being outed, harassed, or threatened,” she said in Thursday’s statement, which also noted that fewer than 1 in 3 mental health facilities in the U.S. provide services for LGBTQ+ youth. “I am introducing the Pride in Mental Health Act to help equip LGBTQ+ youth with the resources to get the affirming and often life-saving care they need.”

“Mental health care is health care. And for some LGBTQ+ youth, receiving access to the mental health care they need can mean the difference between living in safety and dignity, and suffering alone through discrimination, bullying, and even violence,” said Smith. “The data shows what many parents and educators see every day — an epidemic of students in classrooms dealing with anxiety, depression and other serious mental health conditions, with nowhere to turn. Meeting LGBTQ+ students where they already are — in school — helps us break down the stigma they might face and get kids the health care they need.”

Mark Henson, Director of Federal Advocacy and Government Affairs at The Trevor Project—one of 15 organizations that endorsed the bill—said that passing the Pride in Mental Health Act would be “an important step toward addressing the serious mental health crisis among LGBTQ+ young people in the U.S.”

“The Trevor Project’s research found that 41 percent of LGBTQ+ young people seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year, yet more than half of those who wanted mental healthcare were not able to get it,” Henson said in Thursday’s statement. “We clearly need to invest more in education, prevention, and access to mental healthcare services to support this already marginalized community; and this legislation would do exactly that. We urge Congress to champion this effort and help LGBTQ+ young people across the country lead the happy, healthy lives they deserve.”

The bill comes a day after the Oklahoma state medical examiner ruled the death of 16-year-old transgender high school student Nex Benedict a suicide. Benedict had reported being bullied by the three girls who attacked him in a school restroom the day before his death.

Last week, Rainbow Youth Project reported a staggering 238 percent rise in crisis calls coming from Oklahoma in the weeks since Benedict’s death. And earlier this week, the Washington Post published a report based on FBI data indicating that anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes in K–12 schools have more than quadrupled in states where Republican lawmakers have enacted legislation targeting the community.

On Thursday, President Joe Biden called on parents and schools to take bullying seriously in the wake of Benedict’s death. “Bullying is hurtful and cruel, and no one should face the bullying that Nex did,” Biden said in a statement. “In memory of Nex, we must all recommit to our work to end discrimination and address the suicide crisis impacting too many nonbinary and transgender children.”

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is available. Call or text 988 or chat at The Trans Lifeline (1-877-565-8860) is staffed by trans people and will not contact law enforcement. The Trevor Project provides a safe, judgment-free place to talk for youth via chat, text (678-678), or phone (1-866-488-7386). Help is available at all three resources in English and Spanish.

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Actual Story on LGBTQ Nation
Author: John Russell

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