Survey: LGBTQ Youth Affected by Drumbeat of 'Anti-' Policy Coverage
Friday, September 8, 2023
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer youths in Nebraska and across the country are exposed to a steady stream of news about anti-LGBTQ policies and legislation, and many say it's affecting their wellbeing.
Nearly one-third of the 28,000 who responded to the latest Trevor Project survey of LGBTQ young people reported having poor mental health "most or all of the time" because of anti-LGBTQ proposals and actions.
Alison DeLizza, a clinical psychologist and assistant professor at the University of Nebraska Medical Center who specializes in working with these young people, said it's no surprise that they are affected by all the negative policy coverage.
"Whether they are a young person or an adult, those are news stories about a group to which they belong, and have a direct and true impact on them," she said. "These things impact how they can move through the world."
This year alone, more than 200 anti-trans bills and more than 500 anti-LGBTQ bills were introduced in state legislatures - including Nebraska's controversial LB 574, banning gender-affirming medical care to minors. Also, Gov. Jim Pillen signed an executive order "declaring the biological definition of male and female" - only the second such order in the country.
Stressing the cumulative effect these reports can have, DeLizza encouraged parents to teach their LGBTQ loved ones to "step away from the news cycle" and keep a close eye on their wellbeing.
Also in the Trevor Project survey, a majority said they'd been bullied at school because of their orientation. DeLizza pointed out that social media can make troubling stories and comments hard to ignore.
"It's not just that, 'Hey, I saw the story in the [Omaha] World Herald' - but then also, my friends were tweeting about it," she said. "And then another person posted this thing on Instagram, and another person made a TikTok about it. It's everywhere."
DeLizza said she sometimes tells young people she works with to avoid content they find upsetting on particular platforms, especially since algorithms will keep sending them more and more about those topics.
"So," she said, "I'll say, 'You know what? On your TikTok, you don't need to follow stuff about what's going on in the news. If your TikTok needs to be make-up videos and puppy dogs, go for it.'"
In the survey, 56% who wanted mental-health care in the previous year said they were unable to get it, and 41% said they'd seriously considered suicide. DeLizza said loss of interest in things they enjoy and feeling depressed and anxious all can be signs a young person may need professional help. She said the family doctor is a good place to start. The National Suicide and Crisis Lifeline is 9-8-8.
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