Health and Nutrition

LGBT

Sexual orientation and gender are important aspects of a young person’s identity. Understanding and expressing sexual orientation and gender and developing related identities are typical development tasks that vary across children and youth. For example, some youth may be unsure of their sexual orientation, whereas others have been clear about it since childhood and have expressed it since a young age.1 Expressing and exploring gender identity and roles is also a part of normal development.2 The process of understanding and expressing one’s sexual orientation and gender identity is unique to each individual. It is not a one-time event and personal, cultural, and social factors may influence how one expresses their sexual orientation and gender identity.3

Unfortunately, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) youth experience various challenges because of how others respond to their sexual orientation or gender identity/expression. This is also true for youth who are questioning their sexual orientation or gender identity, or may be perceived as LGBT or gender variant by others.4 A landmark 2011 Institute of Medicine (IOM) report reviewed research on the health of LGBT individuals, including youth. Although this research is limited, the IOM report found that “the disparities in both mental and physical health that are seen between LGBT and heterosexual and non-gender-variant youth are influenced largely by their experiences of stigma and discrimination during the development of their sexual orientation and gender identity.”5 These negative experiences include high rates of physical and emotional bias and violence; rejection by families and peers; and inadequate supports in schools, employment, and communities because of their sexual orientation and gender identity/expression.

Stress associated with these experiences can put LGBT young people at risk for negative health outcomes. Research shows that due to these environmental challenges, LGBT youth are at risk for negative health outcomes and are more likely to attempt suicide, experience homelessness, and use illegal drugs.6 These issues may also contribute to anxiety, depressive symptoms, and feelings of isolation. Youth who express their gender in ways that vary from societal expectations for their perceived sex or gender are at risk for high levels of childhood physical, psychological, and sexual abuse.7 They are also at risk for school victimization.8 As a result, they may have poorer well-being than lesbian, gay, and bisexual peers whose gender expression is more closely aligned with societal expectations.9

To date, most research on LGBT youth has focused on the risk factors and disparities they experience compared with youth who are not LGBT. However, emerging research on resiliency and protective factors offers a strength-based focus on LGBT youth well-being. Addressing LGBT-related stigma, discrimination, and violence; building on the strengths of LGBT youth; and fostering supports such as family acceptance and safe, affirming environments in schools and other settings will help improve outcomes for LGBT young people. Federal and local policies and practices increasingly acknowledge and focus on the experiences and needs of LGBT youth. Numerous national advocacy and other organizations are also giving greater attention to LGBT youth in their work.10 Fostering safe, affirming communities and youth-serving settings such as schools for all youth requires efforts to address the challenges described here. At the same time, it is also important to acknowledge and build on the strengths, resilience, and factors that protect LGBT youth from risk, such as connection to caring adults and peers and family acceptance.

Resources

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Health Risks Among Sexual Minority Youth
This website from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) provides information on protective factors and data related to health risks and sexual minority youth.

1 Institute of Medicine, 2011; Poirier, Fisher, Hunt, & Bearse, 2014
2 Institute of Medicine, 2011; Poirier, Fisher, Hunt, & Bearse, 2014
3 Poirier, Fisher, Hunt, & Bearse, 2014
4 Gender variant youth are not necessarily LGBT. In fact, any youth who does not fit typical social expectations for his or her mannerisms, behavior, or choice of clothing based on birth-assigned gender, for example, can be considered “gender variant.” This does not mean the youth is lesbian, gay, or bisexual—or identifies as a gender different from what he or she was assigned at birth (i.e., transgender).
5 Institute of Medicine, 2011, p. 142
6 Hunter & Schaecher, 1987; Reis, 1999; Reis & Saewyc, 1999; Ray, 2006; Ryan, Huebner, Diaz, & Sanchez, 2009; SAMHSA, 2014
7 Roberts, Rosario, Corliss, Koenen, & Austin, 2012
8 Toomey, Ryan, Diaz, & Russell, 2010
9 Rieger & Savin-Williams, 2012
10 American Association of School Administrators et al., n.d.; National Association of School Nurses, 2003; National Association of School Psychologists, 2006

Homelessness and Runaway

Homelessness is a major social concern in the United States, and youth may be the age group most at risk of becoming homeless.1 The number of youth who have experienced homelessness varies depending on the age range, timeframe, and definition used, but sources estimate that between 500,000 and 2.8 million youth are homeless within the United States each year.2

Youth run away or are homeless for a range of reasons, but involvement in the juvenile justice or child welfare systems, abuse, neglect, abandonment, and severe family conflict have all been found to be associated with youth becoming homeless. These youth are vulnerable to a range of negative experiences including exploitation and victimization. Runaway and homeless youth have high rates of involvement in the juvenile justice system, are more likely to engage in substance use and delinquent behavior, be teenage parents, drop out of school, suffer from sexually transmitted diseases, and meet the criteria for mental illness.3 Experiences of unaccompanied homeless youth are different from those who experience homelessness with their families. While negative experiences persist for youth who are homeless with their families, their experiences may not vary drastically from youth living in poverty.4 Studies have also found distinct variability in outcomes experienced by homeless youth, suggesting that youth experience homelessness differently.5

Providing timely and direct interventions to homeless and runaway youth is important to protect them from the risks of living on the streets and to support positive youth development6, yet despite the risks and needs of these youth, few appear to know of, and access, support services.7 Even more critical is addressing the family/parental needs to prevent youth and/or their families from becoming homeless and addressing their behavioral health needs through comprehensive methods that involve both youth and their families. 

1 Toro, Dworsky, & Fowler, 2007
2 Cooper, 2006
3 Walsh & Donaldson, 2010; Toro, Dworsky, & Fowler, 2007
4 Samuels, Shinn, & Buckner, 2010
5 Huntington, Buckner, & Bassuk, 2008
6 Walsh & Donaldson, 2010
7 Pergamit & Ernst, 2010

 

Texas Hunger Initiative

The Texas Hunger Initiative (THI) began in 2009 as a capacity-building and collaborative project within the Baylor University School of Social Work in partnership with the Baptist General Convention of Texas and the U.S.

LGBT Youth at Risk: Education, Health and Safety – 2012 Policy Briefs

In 2010, the UCLA Center for the Study of Women (CSW) initiated a new series of publications to address policy issues in our mission areas of gender, sexuality, and women's issues.
CSW Policy Briefs comprise outstanding applied feminist scholarship by graduate students. For the 2012 set of briefs, we put out a call for policy recommendations in the area of “LGBT Youth At Risk: Education, Health and Safety.” CSW was pleased to receive submissions from graduate students in both the Luskin School of Public Affairs and the Fielding School of Public Health.

Young People's Health Care: A National Imperative

This issue paper highlights the unique health issues faced by this age group, as well as the vastly different socioeconomic, cultural and demographic factors influencing their health status, access to care and utilization of services. The paper advocates for tailored solutions to prevent a crisis in the health status and access to care of young adults and documents current innovative state, county and local programs targeted to meet the needs of the young adult population.

Youth Today

Newspaper on youth work.  

Tunnels & Cliffs: A Guide for Serving Youth with Mental Health Needs

This guide provides practical information and resources for youth service professionals and policymakers, from the program to the state level, with information to help them address system and policy obstacles in order to improve service delivery systems for youth with mental health needs. The guide provides the Guideposts for Success for Youth with Mental Health Needs which includes all the elements of the original Guideposts as well as additional specific needs relating to youth with mental health needs.

Thresholds' Young Adult Program

This Young Adult Program hopes to engage and empower young adults in their journey toward recovery through individualized, developmentally appropriate service ans upports designed to achieve members' maximum capacity for independence as they transition to adulthood. Thresholds' Young Adult Program utilizes the innovative Transition to Independence (TIP) System, which provides the framework that drives staff interactions with young adults, program services and activities.

StrengthofUs.org: Live a Better Life Through Community

StrengthofUs.org is an online resource center and social networking website for young adults (ages 18-30) living with mental health conditions. It exists to empower young adults to live out their dreams and goals through peer support and resource sharing.     Developed by young adults, StrengthofUs.org allows users to connect with their peers and share stories, creativity and resources by writing and responding to blog entries, engaging in discussion groups, posting updates and sharing videos, photos and news.

Special Needs Resource Directory

The Special Needs Resource Directory, created by the Center for Infants and Children with Special Needs at Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center, is a comprehensive accumulation of resources for families of CYSHCN.  Parents, caregivers and health care providers can find local, regional and national web site links to:        * Locate information on specific disabilities      * Identify strategies to help you advocate for your child      * Develop community connections for ongoing support      * Overcome barriers to access health care resources