(LA Blade) The Trevor Project on Wednesday released its report on a study of LGBT youth who have a parent/guardian currently serving in the armed forces of the U.S.
Being a military dependent has long posed unique challenges for many youth, largely factored in including but not limited to frequent moves, separations for deployments or training and the significant fear of loss of a loved one due to their military service. This study though found that being LGBTQ+ with a serving parent had added stressors.
An estimated 1.76 million young people in the United States have a parent in the military according to researchers.
Likely due to the aforementioned stressors, youth with military parents are more likely to report depressive symptoms and suicidal ideation than their peers without military parents Youth who report that a parent or sibling had deployed also reported higher odds of experiencing sadness, hopelessness, depressive symptoms, and suicidal ideation compared to youth who reported no family deployments.
According to the Trevor study, there is a small but growing body of literature about the intersection of LGBTQ identity and family military connections among youth, with especially little information about their mental health. LGBTQ youth with military parents face even more challenges compared to their straight and cisgender peers, as well as their LGBTQ peers without parents in the military. These challenges can include trying to find an LGBTQ-affirming community, or having to come out repeatedly with each frequent move.
Also noted was the fact that LGBTQ youth with military parents are also more likely to report substance use than heterosexual youth with military parents.
The survey of nearly 35,000 youth was conducted in late 2020 via an online platform. Of those, 5% reported they had a parent who served in the military. When broken down by race and ethnicity, LGBTQ youth who were Black, Native American or multiracial, were more likely to have a parent serving, with 8%-9% saying they had at least one parent in the military.
The military youth respondents overall reported higher anxiety symptoms and suicidal thoughts, while those under age 18 reported significantly higher rates of anxiety, depression and suicidal ideation compared with their civilian peers and also compared with older military dependents ages 18-24.
“These data offer crucial insights into the unique mental health challenges faced by LGBTQ youth living with military parents, underscoring that this group faces significantly higher suicide risk compared to their peers,” said Dr. Jonah DeChants, Research Scientist at The Trevor Project. “Future research is needed to better consider the diversity of experiences that LGBTQ youth with military parents represent – such as whether they have one or multiple military parents, if their families live on a base, and whether or not their parents have deployed. However, these data indicate a strong need for mental health care providers to prioritize competent services that demonstrate an understanding of both these young people’s LGBTQ identities, and their belonging to military families.”
“The military itself, and organizations dedicated to supporting the mental health of service members and their families — especially in the area of suicide prevention — should actively take into account the needs of LGBTQ people and create welcoming and affirming spaces for families with LGBTQ members,” the report noted.
- LGBTQ youth who reported having a parent currently in the military reported significantly higher rates of mental health challenges and suicide risk. Having a parent currently in the military was associated with :
- 17% higher odds of recent anxiety symptoms
- 14% higher odds of seriously considering suicide in the past year
- Nearly 40% higher odds of attempting suicide in the past year
- Mental health issues were particularly common among LGBTQ youth under 18 who had a parent currently in the military.
- LGBTQ youth with a parent currently in the military with high levels of family support reported lower mental health challenges and suicide risk, including:
- 40% lower odds of recent anxiety symptoms
- 56% lower odds of recent depression symptoms
- 46% lower odds of considering suicide in the past year
- LGBTQ youth living in the South reported the highest rates of having a parent currently in the military compared to those living in other regions of the U.S. Those who identified as Native/Indigenous, Black, or multiracial reported higher rates of having a parent currently in the military compared to their peers as well.
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