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Gender Minority Students at Highest Risk of Mental Health Issues

Students who belong to a gender minority are most likely to be at the risk of developing mental health issues in comparison to their peers.

According to a study conducted by researchers from Boston University, students who identify as transgender, gender non-conforming, genderqueer, and nonbinary face various mental health problems.

The researchers surveyed nearly 1,200 gender minority students from 71 higher education institutions. Out of those surveyed, 78 percent reported experiencing one or more mental health issues with nearly 60 of them screening positive for depression.

Among all the gender minority groups, transgender men and genderqueer students are more vulnerable to mental health issues.

“There has never been a more important time for colleges and universities to take action to protect and support trans, genderqueer, and nonbinary students on campus,” study lead author Sarah Ketchen Lipson, a Boston University School of Public Health assistant professor said.

“Mental health outcomes, as well as negative educational outcomes like dropping out, are preventable,” Lipson added.

Researchers analyzed data collected by Healthy Minds Study, a nationwide survey about campus mental health and found that transgender students reported facing constant discrimination and harassment resulting in higher dropout rates.

On an alarming note, the study found that transgender students are at higher risk of suicide and attempted suicide emanating from facing denial over the use of gender-appropriate bathrooms and housing on college campuses.

“Reports that more than 40 percent of transgender people have attempted suicide in their lifetimes suggested, to me, that there is a large and disproportionate burden of disease among [people in the gender minority] that public health research can contribute to addressing,” said Julia Raifman, BU School of Public Health assistant professor of health law, policy and management.

Recent studies have shown an overall increase in mental health problems experienced by students across the campuses. Anxiety and depression are the top two mental health concerns across all sectors with presidents at private nonprofit four-year institutions most likely to hear about students facing both the mental health issues.

Between 2007 and 2017, the number of students seeking mental health treatment jumped from 19 to 34 percent and those with mental illness diagnoses rose from 22 to 36 percent.

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