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LGBT Teens and Stress

For lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender teens, stress is common. But it doesn’t have to be.

Greater Risk of Unhealthy Behaviors continued...

Psychologist Anthony R. D'Augelli, PhD, who has written extensively on teen LGBT issues, says that he too was unsurprised by the report. Among LGBT teens, "there’s a higher prevalence of all kinds of risky behaviors, you name it," says D'Augelli, a professor of human development at Pennsylvania State University.

He points to missing school, which is not uncommon among teens who feel threatened and/or unwelcome. "School absences build up, then they don't do well on tests, and grades go down," he says.

Sometimes, those absences become permanent. "Some kids cope by dropping out of school and getting a GED," Menvielle says.

That does not have to be you.

Finding Support Makes All the Difference

Both Menvielle and D'Augelli stress the importance of finding a support network, whether that’s friends, family, a sympathetic teacher or guidance counselor, or the Internet.

"Kids need to feel like they are in a very supportive environment," D'Augelli says. "They should not have to feel they have to hide from themselves and from their peers and families."

Your school might already have a support network available. Gay-straight alliances (GSAs), for example, are groups that promote understanding and awareness. According to the CDC, students at schools with active GSAs are less likely to feel threatened or have suicidal thoughts.

"If there are GSAs in school, teens feel supported," Menvielle says. "Even if they don't use them, knowing they exist is important. If kids do not experience support, they are going to be at higher risk for a variety of things, including suicide and depression."

Unfortunately, D'Aguelli says, there are still plenty of areas where schools do not actively support LGBT students. And openly gay teachers, who could be both important resources as well as potential role models, are still relatively uncommon.

"For some people, especially in more isolated and conservative areas, the Internet may be the only option," D'Augelli says. "There are great web sites that are affirming and that provide excellent information, though admittedly it may not help you in math class in the middle of the day or while waiting at the bus stop."

Talk to Your Parents

Menvielle stresses the need to get your parents involved, especially if you are being actively harassed or intimidated.

"Parents need to intervene," he says. "Parents have to be advocates on behalf of their children."

It may be hard to talk with your parents, especially if you are worried that they will react negatively. But D'Augelli says that there is little evidence of parents rejecting their children because of their sexuality; in fact, he says, these days that conversation may be easier than in years past.

"An increasing number of adults know more gay people, and that makes a huge difference in how they react to gay people," he says. "When a son or daughter comes out, they don't assume that they are strange or abnormal. Instead, they see perfectly bright, acceptable people."

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