LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender) young people appear to be less resilient than their older LGBT counterparts, according to a new study at the University of Missouri School of Medicine that explored the role resilience plays in lowering stress and depression among people in the LGBT community.
“Identifying as gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender often is associated with an unfriendly and hostile environment,” said Jane A. McElroy, Ph.D., associate professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine and lead author of the study. “Resilience is the ability to protect oneself against those stressors and rebound from adversity.”
Typically, LGBT individuals experience much higher levels of stress and depression than the general public. Prior research has shown that LGBT youths are four times more likely to commit suicide compared to their straight peers. In fact, each episode of LGBT victimization, such as physical or verbal harassment or abuse, increases the chances of self-harming behavior by 2.5 times on average, according to IMPACT, an LGBT health and development program.
Based on the findings, the researchers suggest that caregivers, school counselors, and health professionals use resilience-based programs and strategies to improve the mental health of LGBT youths earlier in their lives.
For the study, McElroy and her research team analyzed more than 5,000 surveys from LGBT individuals. They found that LGBT youths were less resilient and more depressed than LGBT adults. The researchers say the findings suggest that resilience may be a trait that increases with age and that developing intervention programs for young people that strengthen their resilience could help improve their mental health earlier in life.
“The stigma, prejudice, micro-aggressions, and discrimination experienced by many in the LGBT community can be a trigger for stress and place those individuals at risk for depression,” McElroy said.
“Resilience-based programs can help individuals cope with the negative stressors often associated with identifying as a member of the LGBT community. It also helps LGBT individuals enjoy the benefits of being a part of this community with increased social support and group solidarity.”
In upcoming studies, McElroy would like to develop intervention strategies that can nurture resilience in LGBT young people by teaching them how to better balance their emotional responses during difficult situations.
“Teaching youths how to navigate the process of being ‘out’ and explore challenges as opportunities to grow are possible intervention strategies,” McElroy said. “Social media sites, college campuses and community resource centers are potential avenues that could lead resilience-based interventions.”
Source: University of Missouri-Columbia