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Providing a Lifeline for LGBT Youth

Providing a Lifeline for LGBT Youth

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Carlos Maza on effective ways of providing LGBT adolescents with access to mental health services.
Carlos Maza on effective ways of providing LGBT adolescents with access to mental health services.

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Published by: Center for American Progress on Dec 09, 2010
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1Center or American Progress | Providing a Lieline or LGBT Youth
Providing a Lifeline for LGBT Youth
Mental Health Services and the Age of Consent
Carlos Maza December 2010
Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and ransgender eenagers are some o he mos vulnerableo people in he Unied Saes oday. Tey ace discriminaion and harassmenrom a variey o dieren sources: bullying and harassmen in schools, rejeciona home, and condemnaion rom media and religious organizaions. A ear o persecuion encourages many LGB eens o keep heir real ideniies hidden.Living wih he sress o a marginalized ideniy has clear and negaive eecs onhe menal healh o LGB youh. Tey are consisenly repored as having higherraes o depression and anxiey han heir non-LGB peers.
Even more roubling,sudies have demonsraed ha hese young aduls are more likely han non-LGBeenagers o engage in sel-harm, have suicidal houghs, and atemp suicide.
Providing LGB adolescens wih access o menal healh services is essenial ohelping hem cope wih he exreme pressures ha have led many o hem o con-sider suicide. Numerous sudies have already demonsraed he benes o menalhealh reamen or people suering rom depression and oher mood disorders.Menal healh counseling and herapy have a high probabiliy o improving hemenal healh and wellbeing o eens, even when unaccompanied by medicaion.
State age-of-consent laws
 A majoriy o saes require minors o obain consen rom a paren or guardian beore receiving oupaien menal healh reamen. Tis requiremen oo ofenorces LGB adolescens ino a painul cach-22—hey mus choose o eiherorgo criically needed proessional help or seek reamen while risking revealingheir LGB saus o heir amilies premaurely and wihou a suppor nework, which can signicanly aggravae exising menal healh problems.
2Center or American Progress | Providing a Lieline or LGBT Youth
LGB youh are likely o avoid using public menal healh services i hey believeha doing so will cause hem o have o reveal heir LGB saus o heir parensor peers.
Ta’s why young aduls wih menal healh issues wai an average o seven and a hal years afer rs experiencing sympoms beore seeking proes-sional help despie he eeciveness o menal healh services.
 When LGB eens are orunae enough o obain parenal consen, hey may sill be relucan o ully disclose he exen or severiy o heir menal healh issues.Many LGB eens worry abou he condenialiy o heir reamen sessions,earing ha heir parens will access heir medical records and discover heirLGB saus. A ew o he saes ha allow minors o consen o oupaien menalhealh care sill allow docors o reveal minors’ personal medical inormaion oheir parens wihou heir permission. Concerns abou paien-provider con-denialiy undermine he eeciveness o menal healh reamen by dissuadingLGB eens o wihhold imporan inormaion during he reamen process.
Sae age-o-consen laws or accessing menal healh care vary widely.
A hird o he saes do no allow paiens under he age o 18 o access oupaien menalhealh services wihou a paren’s consen. Only 16 saes allow minors o receiveoupaien menal healh care wihou parenal consen a ha age despie researchdemonsraing ha hal o all lieime cases o menal illnesses develop by age 14.
Several o he saes ha allow minors o access oupaien menal healh caremainain resricions on providing minors wih medicaion. Tese resricionssignicanly aler he qualiy o menal healh care available o hem. Sudies havedemonsraed ha he eeciveness o counseling and herapy is grealy increased when coupled wih anidepressans and oher psychiaric medicaions.
Fully undersanding sae saues governing age o consen or oupaien menalhealh reamen can be rusraing. Many o hese regulaions include a rangeo caveas, requiremens, and vaguely dened excepions. Some saes requireparenal consen afer a cerain number o reamen sessions. Ohers require haa cour deems a minor o be maure and  o consen beore receiving reamen.Sill ohers allow minors o consen only in emergency siuaions, when a parenor guardian is no available o consen on his or her behal. And nearly every sae ha allows minors o access menal healh services wihouparenal consen (Connecicu and Washingon, D.C. are he excepions) givespraciioners discreion abou wheher o inorm he minor’s parens abou his
3Center or American Progress | Providing a Lieline or LGBT Youth
or her reamen. Some saes allow medical praciioners o inorm parens o aminor’s condiion only when he minors healh is a serious risk. Bu ohers esab-lish no guidelines or when o involve a paien’s parens, puting LGB youha risk o having heir rue sexual orienaion or gender ideniy revealed o heiramilies wihou good reason.Tese wildly dieren sandards or menal healh reamen and condenialiy serve as major hurdles or LGB eens looking or sae and supporive places oreceive reamen or heir menal healh concerns. I is likely ha LGB youh will avoid seeking help alogeher i hey do no believe hey can receive respec-ul and eecive reamen wihou having o “ou” hemselves o heir amilies.Esablishing clear and youh-riendly sandards or adminisering menal healhservices is essenial o ensuring ha America’s mos vulnerable eens are no orcedo sruggle alone wih devasaing eecs o depression and oher menal illnesses.
 The California model—The Mental Health Services for At-RiskYouth Act
Caliornia Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed he Menal Healh Services or A-Risk Youh Ac (SB 543) ino law on Sepember 30, 2010. Te law expandsminors’ access o menal healh services by relaxing he sae’s consen require-men and is a useul model or sae or ederal legislaion o address menal illnessamong LGB youh.Te new law will go ino eec on January 1, 2011, signicanly expanding hescope o minors qualied o access menal healh services wihou parenalconsen. Minors seeking menal healh care previously needed o be (1) a leas12 years old, (2) maure enough o paricipae inelligenly in he reamen, and(3) eiher in danger o serious physical or menal harm o himsel or hersel, or oohers, wihou reamen, or a vicim o inces or child abuse.Te new law eliminaes he hird requiremen or accessing reamen, allowingLGB minors who are no ye in serious danger o receive oupaien menalcare. Tis shif in policy is remendously imporan; insead o ocusing on crisismanagemen once a menal healh siuaion has
become lie hreaening,he new law emphasizes prevenion and early deecion, which are more eeciveand less cosly or healh care providers.

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