US: New study shines light on how to ‘make it better’ for queer youth

It’s not news that queer young people still experience various forms of bullying and rejection that can impair their mental health, but the research is still developing about how best to help them through those challenges. A new study from the University of Arizona, conducted in conjunction with the Family Acceptance Project, offers new insights as to what coping strategies help and which really don’t.

As it turns out, finding community with other queer youth is vitally important.

Researchers examined 245 lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) young adults’ experiences with coming out, how they navigated various forms of rejection from their family and community, and the strategies they employed to cope. 

Lead researcher Russell Toomey told ThinkProgress over email that even though the study doesn’t explain why some coping mechanisms work better than others, “it is highly plausible that LGBT-specific strategies are associated with better health because it provides LGB youth with a sense of community or belonging.” Conversely, because these stressors are usually beyond the youths’ control, convincing themselves it’ll eventually get better could create “a sense of immediate helplessness” or lead them to ruminate on the problems, which can exacerbate the stress.

“Making LGBT identities and experiences more prominent in the media and allowing folks to share their own stories is an important piece of community (perhaps, even related to the LGB-specific coping strategy that we identified in our study),” Toomey explained. He called the “It Gets Better” campaign “well-intentioned” and he believes many people benefited from “hearing messages of hope and resilience.”

Still, he thinks campaigns to make it better are just as — if not more — important. There are many ways to improve the situation for queer kids now by implementing programs in schools, such as creating gay-straight alliances (GSAs), for example. Queer students at schools with GSAs generally feel safer and experience less anti-LGBTQ victimization. Even if a student doesn’t participate in the club, its mere presence can help mitigate their depression and improve their future success in college. Toomey actually conducted the study that found that result, which is why he wasn’t surprised by the impact of LGBTQ-specific coping strategies found in the current study.

Read more via Think Progress