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Mental health concerns at the forefront as hundreds of 'anti-LGBTQ' bills circulate nationwide

Poll Suggests 76% Of Americans Across Most Religions Support LGBTQ Equality
Posted at 10:44 AM, Mar 17, 2023

Trigger Warning: This story discusses suicide and mental health issues.

With each political debate and bill that passes over transgender rights, parents and LGBTQ+ youth say they brace for the negative impact it may have on their mental health.

The Trevor Project estimates that more than 1.8 million LGBTQ+ teens and young adults between the ages 13 to 24 consider suicide each year.

Ray Loux and his mother Shavahn have followed growing LGBTQ+ legislation across the country.

The ACLU estimates there have been 420 anti-LGBTQ+ bills introduced in the US just in the 2023 legislative session. There have been 11 in Kentucky.

"It's really scary. It's scary that the government has the power to overstep to that level," said Shavahn.

For them, it's much bigger than just a bill.

"I'm terrified. We know that there's so much hatred for the whole LGBT community as it is, let alone trans people," said Shavahn.

As a mother, Shavahn fears for the mental health of the queer community and especially her transgender son. She says there was a time when he was first transitioning that he wouldn't use the restroom at school.

"He ended up getting bladder infections, he ended up dehydrated, he ended up with other health issues because he was too scared, worried to use the restroom at school and this is true all throughout for all of our kids. For all trans people in general," said Shavahn.

Ray says that at one point, it got really bad.

"I was suicidal. I don't know where it would be right now without the support of my community," said Ray.

Three years later, Ray is thriving and happy. Yet he still grieves for some of his friends and young people he fears are in the worst of it because of conversations happening and actions being taken that they cannot control.

"I'm not stupid enough to think that there's not going to be any suicides because of this bill," he said.

According to the non-profit The Trevor Project's polling in 2022, 86% of transgender and nonbinary youth nationwide said recent debates about state laws restricting the rights of transgender people have negatively impacted their mental health.

Their survey of more than 700 youth found 59% of transgender and nonbinary youth in Kentucky seriously considered suicide in the past year, while 24% attempted suicide.

"It's hard to think about the pain that a child has to be in for that to be the outcome," said Rachelle Ketron, mental health care worker and mother of LGBTQ children.

It's a pain she personally thinks about a lot.

"As a suicide survivor, as a parent, you want to be like — what can I do, could've done better, and that's part of the rest of your life," said Ketron.

Her 15-year-old daughter Meryl took her own life two weeks after her birthday.

"She struggled a lot, like I said, with peers, the community being hateful, and sadly, you know, kind of became one of those human statistics," said Meryl.

Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people aged 10 to 24 and LGBTQ+ youth are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide than their peers. Advocates say their feelings have only been more complicated by politics.

"I know like with Meryl for sure. You know, I could control the love that she had in this household and made sure that she knew every single day, like when she woke up — to bed that I loved her. And she had a very supportive family who loved her dearly. outside of these walls, parents don't have control. They're very limited in what they can do," said Ketron.

The community is encouraged by each other. Ketron's passion for youth mental health has only grown since her daughter's death.

"When Meryl passed away, I truly was, you know, we're gonna make this better. You know, it was a promise to her, like I'm gonna fight to make it better," she said.

Both mothers, Ketron and Shavahn, say the start of mental health care is support.

Ray says the support already shown has been overwhelming and affirms for him that the LGBTQ+ community is "immortal".

"Even if this bill gets passed, even if everything that goes wrong does, these people will still be here and will still care about each other and will still be strong and maybe even stronger than ever," said Ray.

If you or someone you know is struggling with thoughts of suicide, you are not alone.

Call the national suicide and crisis lifeline at 9-8-8 for free, confidential support.

The hotline is available 24 hours a day and there are multiple language options.

You can also call the Trevor Project at 1-866-488-7386.

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