Study details 2SLGBTQ + youth struggles with substandard housing through COVID-19

Young 2SLGBTQ + people struggling to cope with substandard housing at best have been forced to face even more challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, often with less support.

“The overall themes were certainly not positive and there aren’t many bright spots, unfortunately,” said Alex Abramovich, a freelance scientist working with the Toronto Center for Addiction and Mental Health (CAMH) and lead author of a report on the topic.

Sixty-one youth completed surveys and 20 youth participated in one-on-one interviews for the study released Tuesday, which showed nearly all were dealing with worsening mental health, increased substance use, and lack of access to social support services. and health.

“They live with abusive or unsupported parents, and they are really concerned that their parents will hear what they are talking about in a group or date online,” Abramovich said.

About a fifth of the participants were staying in a shelter, transitional housing program or group home before the pandemic, which has risen to more than 40 percent since then, the data shows. About a third said they had been living in a public space, a vehicle or an empty building since COVID-19 hit, compared to 13 percent before.

Homelessness and the lack of a social liberation from difficult home environments are contributing to the worsening mental health of queer and trans youth, who often depend on the support of their peers to counter stigma, discrimination and rejection. based on identity.

“He is isolating himself 24/7 with his emotional, psychological and religious abusers and that has been pretty terrible, to say the least,” said one respondent, CeCe, 26. “I have had nervous breakdowns, I have had panic attacks, I have had anxiety attacks, I have had very severe depressive episodes.”

More than eight in 10 respondents self-harmed and about 36 percent reported attempting suicide in the past year.

All reported experiencing anxiety and depression symptoms, with about 84 percent scoring in the “severe” range on a medical anxiety scale and two-thirds scoring “moderately severe” or “severe” on a similar scale. for depression.

Results from baseline surveys completed between January and May showed that almost all young participants experienced deterioration in mental health, including higher rates of suicide, depression and anxiety, and increased substance use.

The ongoing study also includes follow-ups three and six months after the initial survey, with more findings to be published over time.

Sixty-one youth completed surveys and 20 youth participated in individual interviews for a new study, which showed that nearly all were dealing with worsening mental health, increased substance use, and lack of access to supports. # 2SLGBTQ + #COVID

While just over a quarter of those surveyed were unemployed when the pandemic hit, more than half have been out of work since then, which may also exacerbate challenges.

“I am a very busy person, I am a workaholic. I always need to be doing something, ”said Ori, 24, another respondent. “So when COVID happened and everything shut down, I was really struggling. I didn’t know what to do with myself. That’s when, you know, the drinking, the drugs, it all started to happen. “

Lily, a 20-year-old respondent, said they have seen more people in the community using opioids since the pandemic, with more overdoses and deaths as well.

“It has been very difficult because, in our community, we have lost some people, you know, who were sober for years, and unfortunately, it was only the pandemic that hit them and they couldn’t cope,” they said. said.

2LGBTQ + youth are overrepresented on the streets, representing between 20 and 40 percent of the North American homeless youth population, and experience significantly higher rates of mental health problems compared to heterosexual and cisgender youth all over the world.

Participants in the study were between 16 and 29 years old, with an average age of 21 and a first experience of homelessness around 16 years. They represented diverse ethnic-racial origins, including indigenous, black, Asian, mixed-origin, and white. Most identified as transgender or gender diverse and their sexual orientation as bisexual.

Nearly a quarter of young people had to postpone a medical procedure due to the pandemic, and nearly two-thirds of transgender participants were forced to postpone or cancel transition-related medical appointments and half had to postpone or cancel a related surgery with the transition.

A delay in when young trans people have expressed their desire and are waiting to begin the medical transition is a particularly tense time, Abramovich said.

It can actually be very life threatening for a young trans person who is waiting for such a referral for surgery or a prescription for hormones, he said.

“The fact that they have nowhere to go for support and live in a situation of lack of support, I think puts them at a very high risk of everything that we are seeing here in terms of severe anxiety, suicide attempts, self-harm, “he said. additional. “Some of these numbers are really alarming.”

Morgan Sharp / Local Journalism Initiative / Canada National Observer

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