Risk of lasting mental health problems for severely victimized LGBT youths

Posted on February 10, 2016

Discrimination, harassment and assault of LGBT youths is still very much a problem for about a third of adolescents, the study found. What’s more, it’s often very severe, ongoing and leads to lasting mental health problems such as major depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

“We tend to think that society is evolving but we can’t just accept this narrative that ‘it gets better’ and think it gets better for everyone,” said Brian Mustanski, an associate professor in medical social sciences at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine and director of the new Northwestern Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing.

Mustanski was happy to see that the majority of the 248 youths in the study (84.6 percent) experienced decreasing levels of victimization over the four years. But 10.3 percent experienced significant increases in bullying, and 5.1 percent maintained high levels of victimization over the four years. Mustanski was struck by just how severe the treatment was.

“With bullying, I think people often assume ‘that’s just kids teasing kids,’ and that’s not true,” Mustanski said. “If these incidents, which might include physical and sexual assaults, weren’t happening in schools, people would be calling the police. These are criminal offenses.”

The study in 2007 began examining Chicago youths who identified as LGBT or reported having same-sex attraction. It assessed the teens’ mental health at baseline and in seven interviews over four years and found that females were more likely to be in the group that was getting victimized less over time than men. Boys experienced physical and verbal assault more than girls, Mustanski said.

“We were happy to see that for most kids, the levels of victimization were lower overall or decreasing over time. But we were struck by how severe it was for some of these kids who were getting highly victimized over their four years of high school,” Mustanski said.

Overall, he said it is important to note that the majority of targeted LGBT youths are doing well and are “resilient,” but for the group of adolescents getting severely victimized, something drastic needs to be done.


Category(s):Child Development, LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, & Transgender) Issues, Teenage Issues

Source material from Northwestern University


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