By Desmond Napoles
Desmond Napoles (aka Desmond is Amazing) wants to have an important talk about mental health. This is for the adults in the room, but also, it offers some things LGBTQ+ young people can do to prioritize their own mental health.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, 1 in 5 youth aged 13–18 experiences a severe mental illness. For LGBTQ+ youth, this number is much higher, with 1 in 3 teens experiencing a mental health disorder. The LGBTQ+ community has long faced discrimination and prejudice, and as a result, mental health wellness is especially important. We are at risk for mental health issues due to the stress of living in a society that often rejects or misunderstands us.
There are a number of mental health issues that are common among youth. These include anxiety, depression, and self-harm. LGBTQ+ teens are also at increased risk for eating disorders and substance abuse.
The reason for this heightened risk is due to the unique stressors that queer teens face. These include, but are not limited to, coming out, discrimination, and family rejection. LGBTQ+ youth are also more likely to experience bullying, homelessness, and sexual violence.
It’s no secret that growing up can be tough. For LGBTQ+ youth, it can be especially challenging. We struggle with feeling different from our peers, feeling isolated or alone, and feeling like we have to hide who we are. This can all take a toll on our mental health and well-being.
Despite the challenges, there is hope. With proper support, queer teens like me can thrive.
One of the most important things you can do is to simply be there. Listen to us, offer a shoulder to cry on, and let us know we are not alone. It can also be helpful to introduce us to other LGBTQ+ people, whether through books, movies, or real-life examples. Seeing that there are other people like us is incredibly powerful and helps us feel less alone.
Confidence is such a key ingredient in happiness. You can help us build confidence by affirming our unique qualities. It lets us know you are proud of us just the way we are. It’s also important to teach us about self-acceptance and self-love. Too often, queer teens grow up internalizing negative messages about who we are — there’s something wrong with us, we aren’t good enough, we don’t deserve to be loved. It is so important to understand that these messages are not true. We are worthy of love and acceptance, just like everyone else.
It is crucial to provide queer youth with accurate information about their identities. Everyone deserves to feel comfortable in their own skin and to know that they are good enough just the way they are.
There is a lot of misinformation out there, and queer teens are often bombarded with myths and stereotypes. It is important that we understand the realities of our identities. In today’s world, it’s easier than ever to feel like we have to conform to certain standards in order to be “accepted.”
But the truth is, we are all unique and special – and that’s what makes us AMAZING. When we embrace our individuality and our true identities, we are able to lead more fulfilling lives.
Finally, it is vital for LGBTQ+ and gender-variant teens to have a support system to help us deal with the challenges we face. Family and friends can be great sources of support, but it is also important to have access to professional mental health services. The National Institute of Mental Health has a number of resources available on its website that can help LGBTQ+ youth find mental health services and support.
As a LGBTQ+ teen myself, I maintain my mental health through therapy, meditation, and supportive relationships. My work as a public LGBTQ youth activist can be taxing, but these practices have helped me to manage my anxiety and stay grounded. In particular, I’ve found that regular therapy sessions and consistent meditation sessions have brought me the most peace. I also make sure to surround myself with loving individuals and do things that nurture my happiness, like volunteer work and self-care.
There are so many ways LGBTQ+ teens can follow to prioritize their mental health. First and foremost, LGBTQ+ teens should find a supportive community. A supportive and understanding group like LGBTQ+ clubs or support groups can help, as can simply spending time with friends and family who are supportive and understanding.
Next, make sure you take time out for yourself to do things that make you happy and help you relax. Reading, listening to music, spending time outdoors, and writing in a journal are some examples. Lastly, it is critical to educate yourself about your rights and the resources available to you so that you can advocate on behalf of yourself and others. Keeping up to date with LGBTQ+ news and issues as well as checking out resources such as the It Gets Better Project or Trevor Project can help you achieve this goal.
Mental health wellness is important for all teens, but it is especially important for LGBTQ+ teens. LGBTQ+ youth have to deal with specific difficulties when it comes to mental health wellness. The pressure of existing in a world that often doesn’t accept or comprehend them puts them at greater peril for developing mental health disorders. However, given the right support, queer young people can achieve success.
– Desmond Napoles is a teenager who is changing the world. They are a multi-awarded LGBTQ+ advocate, genderfluid editorial and runway model, motivational public speaker, performer, clothing designer, actor, singer, host, social media influencer and published author. Desmond has been featured in major outlets such as The New York Times, NBC News, Teen Vogue, OUT Magazine, among many others. They use their voice and visibility to help break down barriers and create a more inclusive society for LGBTQ+ people everywhere.
For more mental health resources, check out imi at itgetsbetter.org, a mental health tool created for LGBTQ+ youth by LGBTQ+ youth.