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COVID-19 disproportionately affected LGBTQ+ youth. We’re here to help.

Across the nation and around the world, most Pride celebrations take place in June. In Tacoma, we celebrate Pride in July, allowing us the chance to take part in festivities in our neighboring communities and celebrate locally.

But Pride isn’t just about celebration; it’s a time for reflection and recommitment to the health and well-being of the LGBTQ+ community.

That’s why Tacoma-Pierce County Health Department will be at Tacoma Pride Festival on Saturday, July 9. We’ll be there in celebration of our LGBTQ+ community, and to hand out COVID-19 tests and answer your questions about COVID-19 and other health concerns.

We are still learning about the pandemic’s negative effects on LGBTQ+ youth. But we know before COVID-19 hit, LGBTQ+ youth experienced a disproportionate burden of mental health problems.

The disproportionate toll of COVID-19.

Troy Christensen is the Executive Director of the Rainbow Center, a Tacoma non-profit that provides education, advocacy and space for LGBTQ+ community. He says COVID-19 highlighted the universal experiences and impacts of isolation on teens and the unique stressors especially felt by LGBTQ+ youth.

COVID-19 reduced access to supportive systems, such as peer groups, adult mentors, and opportunities for empowerment and building self-esteem.

“Youth who were used to getting affirmed outside their homes (due to family not being supportive) probably experienced the most turmoil and disruption,” Christensen said.

Unfortunately, the LGBTQ+ youth community is frequently ignored, despite growing evidence of unmet mental and behavioral health needs. Many youths face neglect, rejection, trauma, and discrimination. These factors lead to a higher risk of depression, anxiety, substance use, and suicide. These risks increased significantly for non-binary and transgender teens.

According to a national survey on LGBTQ+ youth mental health by The Trevor Project, 70% of LGBTQ+ youth had “poor” mental health most of the time or always during COVID-19. The survey also indicated that 48% of LGBTQ+ youth wanted counseling from a mental health professional and could not receive care during COVID-19.

Only 1 in 3 LGBTQ+ youth described their homes as LGBTQ-affirming. LGBTQ+ youth who found a sexual orientation or gender-affirming space reported lower rates of attempting suicide.

Supporting and engaging with LGBTQ+ youth.

The Health Department is committed to supporting and engaging with LGBTQ+ youth and LGBTQ+ health experts. We want to support the unique needs and evolving strengths of our LGBTQ+ youth.

Together, with community partners, the Health Department is working to create inclusive, affirming spaces for our LGBTQ+ youth in order to improve mental and behavioral health outcomes. We recognize that families, friends, schools, teachers, coaches, health care providers, policy makers and public health agencies all play a role in supporting the health and well-being of LGBTQ+ youth.

If you, or someone you know could use some community support, Oasis welcomes and orients all new youth members through an intake process. To schedule one, call (253) 671-2838 or email oasis@oasisyouthcenter.org. Learn more on their website and Facebook page.

You can find more local LGBTQ+ youth resources:

Join us in celebrating Tacoma Pride with events all through the month of July. You’ll see us at the Tacoma Pride Festival July 9 from noon-6 p.m.