A new survey shows high rates of depression and anxiety among LGBTQ teens nationwide. Advocates say lawmakers could do more to ensure kids aren’t bullied based on their sexual orientation or gender identity.

The Human Rights Campaign surveyed 12,000 kids age 13-to-17 who identify as LGBTQ. Ellen Kahn, with the Human Rights Campaign, said more than 70 percent of teens surveyed reported feelings of worthlessness or hopelessness, and the majority had experienced verbal threats. “These mental-health challenges are directly a result of what’s happening to these kids by people around them, being harassed, being treated poorly, being stigmatized, facing discrimination,” she explained, and added, “That has a cumulative effect.”

Kahn said if lawmakers want to protect students, they should enact policies that specifically address anti-LGBTQ bullying, and establish guidelines for inclusivity training for teachers and school staff.

Earlier this spring the Minneapolis Public Schools instituted a new policy that allows students to indicate their favored name and gender identification preference. The school district said the new initiative is aimed at improving inclusiveness.

Minnesota is among a group of 19 states and the District of Columbia that has enacted laws to protect students from bullying based on sexual orientation or gender identity and Kahn said, “That significantly decreases anti-LGBTQ bullying, it improves the experience of students who are more likely to hear positive statements about who they are, so school culture is a huge factor.”

Kahn said many LGBTQ teens report that they are comfortable coming out to their peers. But, she added that more support from educators, policymakers, and other adults could pave the way to improving students’ emotional well-being.

 

June is LGBT Pride Month.