It's complicated

There was a time, not that long ago, when being gay was considered a mental health problem — a “sociopathic personality disturbance,” to be exact. Being transgender was similarly treated as a psychological disorder.

Perception has changed dramatically since then. Roughly two dozen countries now recognize same-sex marriage — including the United States. Television shows centered around gay, lesbian and transgender characters have earned critical praise and popular appeal — from “Modern Family” to “Transparent.”

Our modern society has reached a state of acceptance we’ve never before seen. So why do so many LGBTQ+ youths still struggle with mental health issues?

In short, it’s complicated.

Mental health problems, including suicidal thoughts or actions, run high among this population, compared to their straight counterparts. (Keuroghlian, 2014, p. 3).

That’s not because of some inherent biological differences between LGBTQ+ youths and their straight counterparts. In fact, the majority of LGBTQ+ youths are well-adjusted and mentally healthy (Institute of Medicine, 2011).

So when mental health problems do arise among this population, the cause is, more often than not, societal. We are social creatures, and life is harder when our friends, families, teachers and peers reject or outright attack us.

Featured Content

Explore how mental health issues are affecting this community. Check out this study from the Institute of Medicine, which examines everything from risk factors to the role of family.

The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People


Institute of Medicine (US) Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health Issues and Research Gaps and Opportunities. The Health of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender People: Building a Foundation for Better Understanding (2011). National Academies Press, 4. Retrieved from

Keuroghlian, A.S., Shtasel, D., Bassuk, E. L. (2014). Out on the Street: A Public Health and Policy Agenda for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Youth Who Are Homeless. American Journal of Orthopsychiatry. Retrieved from

Gender Identity Gender identity icon Our core sense of who we are as a man, a woman, a mixture of both, or neither.

Gender Expression Gender expression icon How we show up in the world through choices like clothing, hair style, mannerisms or tone of voice.

Attraction attraction icon How we feel toward others sexually, romantically and/or emotionally.

Biological Sex Biological sex icon Physical attributes such as reproductive organs and genitalia, chromosomes, genes and hormone levels.