Supporting LGBTQ+ youths’ mental health during a pandemic

To help LGBTQ+ youth who are facing increased challenges during the coronavirus pandemic, FIU’s Center for Children and Families is providing free online Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) for youth ages 3-17 who have experienced trauma.

Walking on rainbow colored floor

The pandemic is especially challenging for LGBTQ+ youth because their support systems can be limited and they may be stuck at home with unsupportive families.

Studies have found that 26 percent of LGBTQ+ youth, especially transgender youth, are forced from their homes due to conflicts with their families over their sexual orientation or gender identity, with 30 percent of LGBTQ+ youth reporting physical violence from a family member after coming out.

“Adolescence and young adulthood are critical times for identifying oneself and establishing independence, but for LGBTQ+ youth to thrive, they need to feel socially, emotionally, and physically safe and supported,” said Nicole Fava, an assistant professor of social work in the Robert Stempel College of Public Health & Social Work and an affiliate of FIU’s Center for Children and Families who specializes in childhood adversity and trauma, healthy adolescent development and sexual health.

Lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) youth are at greater risk for depression, suicide, substance use, and sexual behaviors that can place them at increased risk for HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) compared to their heterosexual peers, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Nearly one-third of LGB youth had attempted suicide at least once in the prior year compared to 6 percent of heterosexual youth.

Given these figures, Fava encourages supportive friends, educators, parents and family members to foster positive environments for LGBTQ+ youth and communicate to them that help is still out there despite the impact of the pandemic on usual support systems.

In fact, Fava notes that for some the shift to telehealth has made access to mental health care more immediate. The Trevor Project, for example, continues to provide support 24/7 for members of the LGBTQ+ community in crisis via text, phone and online chat.

“It’s more important than ever for LGBTQ+ youth to know that someone cares about them and their well-being, especially if their current situation at home is less than ideal,” Fava said. “Helping them feel safe and connecting them to professional services during this time can make a world of a difference in their lives.”

Led by Fava, the free online Trauma-focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (TF-CBT) is being offered at FIU’s Center for Children and Families with funding from The Children’s Trust. Interested families can call 305-348-5885 or email