LGBTQ+ college students face “sizable” mental health challenges compared to their heterosexual and cisgender peers, according to a new report by the Proud & Thriving Project.
The study found that LGBTQ+ students experience a higher incidence of substance misuse, depression, suicidal ideation and academic and extracurricular disengagement than their non-LGBTQ+ peers.
The Proud & Thriving Project, a collaboration between the Jed Foundation, the Consortium of Higher Education LGBT Resource Professionals and other groups, surveyed 907 high school and college students — 602 LGBTQ+ and 305 non-LGBTQ+ — with college students making up two-thirds of the participants. The group separately surveyed 194 college, high school and middle school counselors and administrators.
Among the students surveyed, 83 percent of LGBTQ+ students said they had experienced stress over the past six months, compared to 71 percent of non-LGBTQ+ students. Sixty-seven percent of LGBTQ+ students said they felt lonely or isolated, and 55 percent expressed feelings of hopelessness, compared to 49 percent and 35 percent of non-LGBTQ+ students, respectively.
The pandemic only exacerbated these discrepancies, the report found. Nearly all the counselors and administrators surveyed said that COVID-19 worsened symptoms of depression, anxiety, loneliness and difficulty coping with stress among LGBTQ+ students. Eighty-six percent named anxiety as the top-presenting issue among the LGBTQ+ students they served over the past six months, 84 percent cited depression and 75 percent listed “family concerns” — including fear of coming out and acceptance of their identity — as the biggest concern among their LGBTQ+ students.
Sofia Pertuz, senior adviser at the Jed Foundation, noted that some LGBTQ+ students who returned home during the pandemic struggled with finding a private space to talk about their mental health issues — especially if they weren’t out to their family. Additionally, some LGBTQ+ students who didn’t have health insurance couldn’t access outside mental health practitioners for services that they received in person from their institutions, which especially impacted BIPOC LGBTQ+ students.
“Colleges, specifically, were safe havens for many LGBTQ+ students because they found LGBTQ+ centers for schools that had them, or they had designated roles, or they had an office of diversity and inclusion where they felt like someone was trying to help,” said Pertuz.
To be sure, where LGBTQ+ students attend college greatly impacts their experience. Half of the students surveyed reported that their high school, college or university is a top LGBTQ+-affirming space. But the report found that students in states that lack protections for LGBTQ+ individuals experienced additional stress and felt less supported by their institutions.
The report comes as Campus Pride, a nonprofit …….