The Impact of Peer Harassment on the Mental Health of LGBT Youth

Saturday, 28 October 2017

Sergio M. Sanchez, SN
Department of Nursing, Carroll Univesity, Waukesha, WI, USA

Background: In practice, nurses must be aware of the different risks LGBT individuals may face in order to competently care for their patients. While some may not recognize the contemporary issues that LGBT individuals still face, it is clear that there is a long road ahead to reach true equality. One such area of inequality is health, specifically the mental health of LGBT youth. This report serves to review the literature on the effects of harassment on LGBT youth’s mental health outcomes. Methods: A computerized search was conducted using the following databases: CINAHL plus with full text, PubMed, and ProQuest. The search terms lgbt OR gay OR sexual minority AND harassment OR bullying AND mental health were used in each database search. The search was limited to studies done between 2006 and 2016. Exclusion criteria included any aspects of health other than mental health outcomes (depression, suicidality, anxiety etc.), references that looked at other demographic intersections with sexual orientation status (i.e. the role of low socioeconomic status and sexual orientation with mental health outcomes), studies conducted outside of the United States of America, and studies that focused on interventions and reducing the risk of mental health concerns. In the end, six studies were then found to be relevant to this review’s main focus. Each of those six studies’ methodological rigor was then reviewed and each was found to have sufficient rigor to be included in this review. Results: Frequency in harassment was increased for sexual minority youth in general. Within sexual minority youth bisexuals, males, certain racial and ethnic minorities as well as transgendered individual were the most harassed. An increased trend in suicidal ideation was also apparent. Overall, LGBT youth were 5.6 times more likely to report a suicide attempt than their heterosexual peers. Depressive trends were similar. LGBT youth were 2.6 times more likely to report depressive symptomology. Finally, those who had a high or moderate rate of victimization at any point in a longitudinal study were found to have rates of meeting criteria for PTSD. Implication for nursing: Nurses must be able to create a non-biased and non-heteronormative setting of care. For these adolescents who are already facing adversity at school and home, the healthcare setting should be a place where they can find refuge and compassion.