Student Well-Being Q&A

Mental Health Concerns Multiply for LGBTQ Students Who Are Asian American

By Ileana Najarro — May 10, 2022 5 min read
Counselor 1387286499 b
  • Save to favorites
  • Print

Students who identify as LGBTQ and Asian American/Pacific Islander, or AAPI, need culturally relevant mental health supports that affirm all their identities and acknowledge the multiple forms of discrimination these students face in society.

That’s one of the key takeaways from a new report by the Trevor Project, a national group providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention services to LGBTQ youth.

Using data from a national survey sample of about 3,600 AAPI LGBTQ youth ages 13-24 taken between October and December 2020, the organization found that 40 percent of AAPI LGBTQ youth seriously considered suicide in 2020, with 16 percent attempting suicide.

It also found that 54 percent of AAPI LGBTQ youth reported discrimination based on their race/ethnicity that same year, 63 percent AAPI transgender and nonbinary youth reported discrimination based on their gender identity, and 10 percent of AAPI LGBTQ youth reported discrimination based on their immigration status.

“The mental health findings that we see, both for racial/ethnic minorities and for LGBTQ youth isn’t because of these identities in and of themselves, but because of their marginalized experience in society,” said report co-author Myeshia Price, a senior research scientist at the Trevor Project.

The report is part of the group’s broader efforts to shed light on the intersectional experiences of LGBTQ youth in the country, especially amid growing legislation limiting discussion of race and sexuality in schools as well as legislation targeting LGBTQ students. Price spoke with Education Week about how educators can better address the mental health needs of LGBTQ students of color, in particular those who also identify as AAPI.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

What were the last few years in education like for LGBTQ students who also identify within specific racial or ethnic communities?

We do know that legislation is specifically targeting trans and nonbinary youth but it’s also going after critical race theory, some of the discussions that are specifically addressing the discrimination and unique challenges faced by racial and ethnic minorities in the U.S. And so youth not being able to have their identities accurately represented in a school setting, which is where they spend the vast majority of their time at this age, is definitely something that’s going to impact their overall mental health and well-being.

We do know that having your identity affirmed in the school setting, being in an LGBTQ-affirming school is protective for LGBTQ youth. And we do know that having your identity affirmed, whatever that identity is, is going to be protective for LGBTQ youth. We also know, based on polling data that we have, that LGBTQ youth in particular, are aware of these policies being argued—you know, their identities are being debated right in front of them. They reported that this is definitely having an impact on their mental health.

When you think about the impact of having the multiple combination of these things, so not only is one aspect of your identity being threatened, but multiple aspects of your identity. So we start to think about what the impact of having multiple marginalized identities can do for you. And that’s one of the things that we looked at, or we examined in this report and other reports that we’ve done looking at intersectionality among LGBTQ youth. Particularly for this report, AAPI youth not only experience some of the discrimination based on their sexual orientation and gender identity, but they also experienced race-based discrimination and immigration-based discrimination. And so these are all things that are just sort of like compounding and impacting mental health and in different ways.

Myeshia Price

How does the support system differ when you’re trying to build support systems for students who are a part of multiple communities?

Definitely one size doesn’t fit all. Anything must be culturally salient and reflective of diverse identities. Particular to AAPI LGBTQ youth, for example, we know about the importance of family, community, and how important their racial and ethnic identity is for them, and how protective that is for them. All these things are important. So if you don’t bring family, and racial/ethnic identity, and the importance of culture into these programs, and you just sort of say “oh, we’re all the same, we’re all LGBTQ,” then it’s not going to necessarily have the same impact for AAPI LGBTQ youth.

So you have to think about how these programs should equip parents and other family members to be able to be supportive of these youth because we know that that’s something that’s going to be important for these youth. You have to think about how to equip communities that these youth find themselves in to better support LGBTQ youth.

LGBTQ people of color often report that “yes, I’m experiencing racism even within the LGBTQ community.” So you have to be sure to honor their experiences and how to be sure that they are able to actually benefit from these programs that you’re doing. Schools, public health officials, and honestly all youth-serving mental health organizations must use an intersectional lens, and tailor their programs and services to meet the specific needs of diverse communities in order to be effective.

What are the challenges that educators need to keep in mind when creating mental health support systems for these students?

We do have barriers to access to healthcare. And I think when we look at some of those, we do see that there are cultural things in terms of feeling like a burden on one’s family, and also that feeling as though “I don’t have support in my community or this isn’t something that we usually do.” This is something that has come up in a lot of separate reports.

One of the things that I think is the best way to go about this is engaging stakeholders within the community. There are definitely organizations out there who are already within these communities, they have gained the trust of leadership, they’ve gained the trust of families, and they’re working to address this already. And so I think finding those key stakeholders, and people who are respected community members, is one of the best starts to this and working with them to develop a program that will then help to reach youth. It’s gonna be hard to sort of start with the youth themselves, if there’s a community that’s not necessarily supportive.

But also, we have to consider that having available free services to use on campuses is definitely a great way to allow them to access services for themselves, because a big barrier is getting parental permission, particularly for LGBTQ youth who may not want to talk about their identities with their parents quite yet. So definitely having access to those services at schools is important for youth.

I definitely want to add that policymakers must invest in culturally competent mental health care that is accessible to all youth, and expand that to be trans inclusive and culturally-inclusive policies and practices.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
IT Infrastructure & Management Webinar
From Chaos to Clarity: How to Master EdTech Management and Future-Proof Your Evaluation Processes
The road to a thriving educational technology environment is paved with planning, collaboration, and effective evaluation.
Content provided by Instructure
Special Education Live Online Discussion A Seat at the Table - Special Education: Proven Interventions for Academic Success
Special education should be a launchpad, not a label. Join the conversation on how schools can better support ALL students.
Special Education K-12 Essentials Forum Innovative Approaches to Special Education
Join this free virtual event to explore innovations in the evolving landscape of special education.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

Student Well-Being Opinion What Should Students Do Over the Summer?
Educators share tips for keeping kids off their screens and mentally engaged over the long break.
3 min read
Young girl reads a book with cat in the garden. Summer holidays illustration.
iStock/Getty
Student Well-Being Opinion What's Behind the Explosion in Student Absenteeism?
Kids aren’t returning to school after COVID. What are the implications for policy and practice?
8 min read
Image shows a multi-tailed arrow hitting the bullseye of a target.
DigitalVision Vectors/Getty
Student Well-Being To Ban or Not to Ban? Educators, Parents, and Students Weigh In on Cellphones
School community members share opinions on cellphones in schools, describing how the problem should be handled—if at all.
5 min read
Hands holding smartphone. The screen is lighting everything up.
Education Week + iStock + E+/Getty Images
Student Well-Being Q&A A Teen's Plea to School Leaders: 'Reach Students Who Suffer in Silence'
The newly-elected president of the National Student Council wants school leaders to partner with their students.
4 min read
Anjali Verma speaks during a panel at the 2024 Education Week Leadership Symposium on May 2, 2024, in Arlington, Va.
Anjali Verma speaks during a panel at the 2024 Education Week Leadership Symposium on May 2, 2024, in Arlington, Va. The youth leader plans to focus on student mental health.
Chris Ferenzi for Education Week