LGBTQ youth most at risk to suffer from mental health issues

Des Bansile is a mentor at Youth Era, a peer-based organization that creates a safe space teenagers and adults can turn to for support. Many of them identify as LGBTQ. (KATU Photo)

The National Alliance on Mental Illness says LGBTQ youth are almost three times more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Des Bansile almost became one of those statistics.

She recently showed us around Youth Era, a peer-based organization that creates a safe space teenagers and adults can turn to for support. Many of them identify as LGBTQ.

“A youth who is struggling with their identity when they came out -- they have to face if their parents are going to accept them or their friends, who they’ve known forever, are going to accept them,” Bansile said.

Bansile is all too familiar with feeling unaccepted growing up. She was 24 years old when she finally told someone she was gay.

“The steps I took to try and hide who I was led me down a really dark path while I was in college, and I became depressed and suicidal,” she said.

Suicide is the leading cause of death for LGBTQ individuals between 10 and 24 years old, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Psychologist Dr. Daniel Munoz specializes in treating LGBTQ kids.

“Suicide rates are highest among all different subgroups among LGBTQ teens,” he said. “We also have one of the highest rates of homelessness, one of the highest rates of being abandoned by their family.”

Bansile knows she was almost a statistic.

“I was going to drive my car off a bridge. What stopped me that day as I was swerving, a car came up, and I didn’t want to hurt that person,” she said.

That’s why Bansile feels her role of creating an accepting environment at Youth Era is so important.

And Munoz says every family can make a difference early in their kids’ lives.

“Have a family value where we accept people for who they are,” he said. “So, from the time the child can walk and talk, promote those values of acceptance.”

It could be the difference between life and death.

“When I needed someone to genuinely care about me, I had that person, and I realized the effect that it had. It saved my life,” Bansile said.

The numbers are staggering when you look at who’s at a high risk of depression. One in three gay and lesbian individuals have experienced depression. That’s more than double the rate of peopled who identify as straight.

If you need help with whatever you're going through, you can find people to help you at 1-800-273-TALK or 1-800-273-8255.

You can also text "home" to 741-741 to get connected with professionals near you.

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