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Potential Mental Illness Rates for LGBT Teens Determined

December 9, 2010

Although there have been a number of population-based studies on mental health disorders in lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) adults, there is a paucity of data regarding the prevalence of mental health disorders in LGBT teenagers. Brian S. Mustanski, PhD, and colleagues interviewed 246 LGBT youth between 16–20 years of age residing in Chicago and asked them to complete the Brief Symptom Inventory 18 (BSI 18). The BSI 18 is a screening tool allowing patients to self-report their psychological distress for the previous week.

According to self-report data, 30% of these patients were suffering from mental disorders. Specifically, 17% of patients met DSM-IV criteria for conduct disorder, 15% met the criteria for MDD, 9% met the criteria for PTSD, 1.2% met the criteria for anorexia, and 0.4% met the criteria for bulimia. Mustanski and colleagues also found that 31% had made a suicide attempt at some point in their lives and 7% had attempted suicide in the previous year. Approximately 15% of the patients had suicidal ideation and another 8.6% had actually formulated a suicide plan.

Although these rates of mental illness and suicide are comparable with those of the general population, Mustanski and colleagues believe that LGBT patients warrant special attention. They also believe that assessment of sexual orientation is necessary to fully realize the mental health disparities between the general population, and this subset.

Funding for this research was provided by a grant to Dr. Mustanski from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. (Am J Public Health. 2010;100:2426-2432.) —Christopher Naccari

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