She was born Joshua Ryan Alcorn, but she felt like a girl trapped in a boy’s body and changed her first name to Leelah. At 14, she revealed that she loved men and told her conservative Christian parents about it. But they were appalled and said that it was just a phase and that God doesn’t make mistakes.
Instead of allowing her to have transition treatment when she was 16, Leelah was removed from school and cut off from the outside world for the next five months. She was sent to Christian conversion therapists who told her that she was wrong and selfish. This only made Leelah hate herself more and she became depressed.
On December 28, 2014, just before 2:30 a.m., the troubled youth walked right into the path of a semi-trailer near the South Lebanon Exit in Ohio. Leelah was only 17 when she died, but her death was not in vain.
Her suicide note appeared on her Tumblr blog at 5:30 p.m. and got 82,272 views within 48 hours. By December 31, it was reblogged 200,000 times. The note soon attracted international attention and shed light on the discrimination, abuse, and lack of support for transgender people.
Leelah’s case is not unique. According to The Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA Law, 1.4 million Americans identify as transgender. However, this number is believed to be higher since many people are afraid of coming out because of fear and discrimination.
Mental Health America (MHA) says this explains why members of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer) community have high rates of psychiatric disorders. They are three times more likely to have a mental health condition. In fact, after screening 300,000 LGBTQ people, MHA found that 86% of youths who were examined had moderate to severe mental health problems.
What are some of the mental health challenges faced by this group? To give you an idea, take a look at these sobering statistics:
- MHA says LGBTQ youths are four times more likely to attempt suicide, experience suicidal thoughts, and engage in self-harm as compared to straight youths.
- The Trevor Institute reveals that these suicide attempts are almost five times more likely to require medical treatment.
- In addition, they are four to six times more likely to result in injury, poisoning, or overdose that requires treatment from a doctor or nurse.
- MHA adds that 40% of transgender adults have attempted suicide and 92% did before the age of 25.
- Those who were rejected by their families were 8.4 times more likely to try suicide than other individuals.
- The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) says 44% of LGBTQ adults are likely to have problems with alcoholism.
- Aside from heavy drinking, LGBTQ adults often use drugs, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- The National Institute on Drug Abuse adds that this group is more than twice as likely to use illicit drugs than other groups.
- The Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF) revealed that smoking rates are also higher among this group compared to heterosexuals.
- The National Women’s Law Center says about 30% of transgender individuals had to postpone or avoid medical care when they were sick or injured because of discrimination and disrespect.
- Because of this, more than one in five LGBTQ individuals had withheld information about their sexual practices from their doctor or another healthcare professional.
- More than half of respondents in a survey of LGBTQ people have also been denied healthcare, were subjected to harsh language, or their sexual orientation was blamed for their illnesses, according to the KFF.
Based on the above figures, it’s clear the LGBTQ community faces a lot of challenges — all the more reason they need the support of their families, friends, and peers to overcome these obstacles. By giving them the love, acceptance, and respect they need, we can hopefully comfort them and prevent things from getting worse.
Meridian Psychiatric Partners LLC offers psychological and psychiatric services specifically tailored to the LGBTQ community. Our caring and competent mental health professionals are skilled in diagnostic assessments, medication evaluations, and individual, group, couples, or family therapy. Visit us today for more information. Our doors are open to children, adolescents, and their families in the Chicago, Evanston, Lake Forest, and surrounding areas.