Young lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people who experience severe harassment can suffer from serious mental health problems, a new study suggests.
In “The Effects of Cumulative Victimization on Mental Health Among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Adolescents and Young Adults”, published in the American Journal of Public Health, Brian Mustanski, Rebecca Andrews and Jae A. Puckett reported that accumulation of victimizations – not only single incidents – impact young LGBT people.
The study followed 248 young LGBT people in Chicago for four years. During that time, 84.6 percent of the participants reportedly had decreasing levels of harassment, while only about 10.3 percent had significant increases in harassment, and only about 5.1 percent had consistently high levels of harassment.
Broken according to gender, females were more likely than males to have decreasing levels of harassment during the study period, and males were more likely to be subjected to physical and verbal assaults.
Mustanski noted that “with bullying, I think people often assume ‘That’s just kids teasing kids,’ and that’s not true. If these incidents, which might include physical and sexual assaults, weren’t happening in schools, people would be calling the police. These are criminal offenses.”
As per the study, two scenarios put young LGBT people at greatest risk for lasting mental health problems – including depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The first is when a youth suffers moderate harassment (such as having things thrown at them) that increased over time.
The second is when a youth continuously had high levels of harassment (such as physical or sexual assault) over a prolonged period of time (in this case, for four years, during the study).
The study suggested that an adolescent’s depression and PTSD was exacerbated when these assaults built up over time.
While the study highlighted the resilience of the young LGBT participants, it also called for “something drastic to be done”, particularly for those getting severely victimized.
As such, schools should clearly see patterns of LGBT bullying so they can intervene with policies and programs that will help prevent the behavior and provide coping mechanisms for those who are being targeted.