Shhhh... Listen! Do You Hear The Sound Of Struggles Facing LGBT Youth During The Covid-19 Pandemic?
The COVID-19 Pandemic has brought along with it myriad disruptions to the lives of youth, including stay-at-home orders, online schooling, and uncertainty around returning to the classroom. The isolation and loneliness are an unprecedented challenge, especially for LGBT youth who are less likely to have a supportive home environment and more likely to face steeper interpersonal challenges. They have lost access to many of the spaces they would typically go for support if their family environment is hostile, an unfortunate reality for many LGBT youth. Many transgender kids, for example, can't dress the way they want at home. LGBT youths who are not out to their families out of fear now have to spend more time than ever pretending to be something they aren't. Losing places where they can express themselves makes everything harder, and this vulnerable group of people reports feeling intense stress, anxiety, and depression.
This reality is all on top of the other challenges that kids face already. Youths are more vulnerable than adults since they are still developing and growing psychologically. This development didn't stop during the pandemic. Kids today are not only less likely to have developed coping skills in place for this extra stress, but they have to find somehow ways to overcome the stresses of growing up without all the same resources we adults had available. The isolation makes it much harder to practice social skills, form meaningful connections, and find a place in society.
While this is bad news for kids today, they have shown heartening resilience. In a recent study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health, researchers found that while LGBT youth face more significant barriers to in-person support, they utilize online mental health resources and internet-based social groups to substantial effect. Lots of kids also consume digital media at greater rates, especially LGBT supportive YouTube content and blogs. By finding a sense of community online, they can better explore their own sense of identity and express themselves in supportive environments. For many youths, online support is convenient and easily accessible. For others, it is an invaluable lifeline and the only place they can go for help.
For better or worse, we are more socially connected than ever in history, thanks to the internet and the ubiquity of smartphones. Unfortunately, it isn't quite the same as meeting up with friends in person, and overusing social media can come with its own set of problems. The long-term psychological consequences of growing up and even just living during this period of isolation and stress will undoubtedly be far-reaching and continue to impact society for decades. However, I think we can all learn something from these kids and the creative ways they have found to overcome today's challenges; online communities and support can be an invaluable tool for us during the pandemic and beyond. The growing popularity of telehealth psychotherapy is proof of that.
Fish, J. N., McInroy, L. B., Paceley, M. S., Williams, N. D., Henderson, S., Levine, D. S., & Edsall, R. N. (2020). "I'm kinda stuck at home with unsupportive parents right now": LGBTQ youths' experiences with COVID-19 and the importance of online support. The Journal of adolescent health: official publication of the Society for Adolescent Medicine, 67(3), 450–452. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.jadohealth.2020.06.002
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