Friday, June 24, 2011

LGBTQ Adolescents: The Importance of Support (Kate Altman, M.S.)

Last week at the conference I had the privilege of attending an excellent workshop on treating adolescents who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or questioning (LGBTQ).  I was saddened to hear that LGBTQ individuals continue to have the highest rate of suicide and suicide attempts among adolescents.  I had heard this statistic before, but was hoping it had diminished recently.  I live in a very accepting community, work in a field that supports the fact that homosexuality is a biologically-determined sexual orientation (read about the American Psychological Association's position on homosexuality here), and have a gay brother I adore, so I sometimes forget how much adversity and rejection many (probably most) LGBTQ individuals face--particularly adolescents.  Pre-teens and teenagers--who are already at more risk for bullying and rejection than adults, regardless of sexual orientation--often face even more social and family hurdles than adult LGBTQ individuals.

Another interesting statistic I learned about in the workshop indicates that adolescent females who identify as lesbian or bisexual are even more at risk for teen pregnancy than their heterosexual counterparts.  The presenter hypothesized that parents and educators are less likely to talk with these girls about safe sex, because they either know or perceive they are gay or bisexual.  Furthermore, LGBTQ youth in general are more likely to abuse substances than heterosexual teens(another troubling statistic), and substance abuse can lead to unprotected sex and unwanted pregnancy.

Ultimately, the workshop elucidated how important it is that we support LGBTQ adolescents, and offer them excellent counseling options during this often difficult stage of development.  By ignoring and diminishing their needs, we risk literally losing these children.

Looking for more information on psychotherapy services for LGBTQ individuals?  Contact Alternative Choices at (215) 592-1333.

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