LGBT+ (lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender) young people are twice as likely to experience depression, panic attacks and anxiety disorders than young people who are not LGBT+, according to new independent research by charity Just Like Us.
Almost half of LGBT+ young people (46%) say they have had or currently have depression, compared to a fifth (20%) of non-LGBT+ young people, the study of almost 3,000 secondary school pupils has found.
Depression rates are the highest among young lesbians (58%) and young trans people (57%), who are three times more likely than non-LGBT+ young people to experience depression.
Half (50%) of young bisexual people and more than a third (38%) of gay boys report they have had or currently have depression. Depression is much more common among bisexual girls (51%) than bisexual boys (38%).
The independent study of 2,934 pupils aged 11-18 (1,140 of whom were LGBT+) across the UK by Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people’s charity, has found that LGBT+ young people are significantly more likely to struggle with mental health.
The data forms part of a larger report into inclusive education and the experiences of LGBT+ young people that charity Just Like Us is due to publish in June 2021.
Anxiety disorder and panic attacks
Half (50%) of LGBT+ young people report they have had or currently have an anxiety disorder, compared to a quarter (26%) of non-LGBT+ young people.
In addition, more than a third (36%) of LGBT+ young people in the UK have or are currently experiencing panic attacks, compared to 15% of young people who are not LGBT+.
Bisexual (56%), lesbian (55%) and transgender (55%) young people are more likely than gay boys (38%) to report having anxiety disorder. Bisexual girls (61%) are significantly more likely to have an anxiety disorder than bisexual boys (37%).
Panic attacks are also significantly more common among bisexual (41%), transgender (44%) and lesbian (40%) young people than gay boys (25%).
Black LGBT+ young people are more at risk
Depression is significantly more common among Black LGBT+ young people (61%) than white LGBT+ young people (48%).
Black LGBT+ young people are also significantly more likely to have anxiety disorder, with 58% reporting this, compared to 52% of their white LGBT+ peers.
Black LGBT+ young people are also more likely to experience panic attacks – 42% say they have or are currently experiencing panic attacks, compared to 39% of their white LGBT+ peers.
Disabled LGBT+ young people
LGBT+ young people who are disabled are even more likely to experience depression, anxiety disorder and panic attacks.
63% of disabled LGBT+ young people report they have had or currently have depression. This is compared to 37% of LGBT+ young people who are not disabled.
Disabled LGBT+ young people are also significantly more likely to have anxiety disorder. 62% of disabled LGBT+ young people report they’ve had or currently have anxiety disorder, compared to 43% of LGBT+ young people who are not disabled.
50% of disabled LGBT+ young people experience panic attacks, compared to 28% of LGBT+ young people who are not disabled.
LGBT+ young people eligible for free school meals
Mental health challenges are consistently higher for secondary school pupils who are eligible for free school meals and also LGBT+, with 58% reporting anxiety disorders, 54% depression, and 44% panic attacks.
School pupils on what would help them
One bisexual Year 12 pupil said schools could do more to help: “Overall LGBT representation. Representation in staff, in movies, in history, in lessons. I don't want it to be taboo, I want it to be normalised.”
Another Year 12 pupil who is bisexual, from the North East, said: “The school do nothing literally one teacher said oh I didn't know people were still discriminatd [sic] like this anymore. I believe it should be compulsory to be an ally at school and it should be taken more seriously.”
A Year 13 pupil from the North West who is queer and asexual said schools should “stop students from using transphobic and homophobic language.”
Chief Executive of charity Just Like Us, Dominic Arnall, has called for more schools to send a positive message of acceptance to their LGBT+ pupils, who are particularly struggling at this time.
"It is devastating that so many LGBT+ young people are disproportionately struggling with depression, anxiety disorder and panic attacks, especially at such young ages, and highlights the need for schools to be safe, welcoming places for LGBT+ pupils,” says Dominic Arnall, Chief Executive of Just Like Us, the LGBT+ young people’s charity.
“Data from our independent research demonstrates that LGBT+ young people who are Black, disabled and/or eligible for free school meals are even more likely to experience depression, anxiety and panic attacks.
“Just Like Us is pleased to be able shine light on the disparities that exist within the LGBT+ community as well – it’s clear that young lesbians, bisexual girls, and trans young people are struggling signifcantly more.
“It’s clear that schools need to ensure these LGBT+ young people disproportionately struggling with mental health are supported.
“Schools can play a hugely positive role in this by making their environments safe and welcoming for vulnerable LGBT+ young people. If any primary or secondary schools need help with LGBT+ inclusion, Just Like Us has free lesson plans and resources, we can organise school talks for secondary schools, and we’d really encourage all schools to sign up to take part in School Diversity Week.
“We know that teachers and school staff are under immense pressure during coronavirus and that's why at Just Like Us we're doing everything we can to make LGBT+ inclusion as easy as possible.”
Show support for your pupils who may be LGBT+ or have LGBT+ families by signing up your primary school, secondary school or college for School Diversity Week. It's completely free and you'll receive a toolkit full of teaching resources for all key stages, across the curriculum.