Experts share how parents, loved ones can help LGBTQ+ teen mental health

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The pandemic has taught all of us about the importance of our mental health and it's an even tougher challenge for LGBTQ+ teens.

Certified counselor Matt Ercolani of Main Line Health says gay and transgender teens suffer more anxiety and depression because they're on constant alert, uncertain of acceptance or rejection.

"It is really, really tough to be a teenager nowadays. And it's even tougher to be a member of the LGBTQ+ community. It's a lot of self-monitoring and that gets exhausting, frankly," he said.

Ercolani says acceptance has improved, but isn't universal and kids see through claims that LGBTQ rights are "too political" or "controversial" for schools to tackle.

"Kids walk into classrooms not knowing if their teachers, their classmates, are safe, not knowing if their teachers or classmates are going to accept them for who they are," said Ercolani.

Fears of discrimination or misunderstanding may cause teens to delay health care.

Diana and Liam Robins advocate and educate doctors, counselors, and others on behalf of their transgender teen to help avoid misunderstandings.

"This is new for a lot of parents and it's new for a lot of educators and other community members," said Diana.

"One of the things that we've seen with our trans kid that was hard for them was re-entering school with a new name and a new look," added Liam.

Another lesson is that gender identity and sexual orientation can shift through the teens as a child explores their sense of self.

The Robins' also vet health care providers to make sure they're on board with their teen's identity and preferred name.

They say Main Line Health's Inclusive Care program was a relief, from the art on the walls to the electronic health records.

"The computer software they have not only allows them to have the preferred name in there, but also the preferred gender to that everything matches what they need," said Liam.

Liam Robins, who is transgender too, believes no one in the LGBTQ+ community should settle for substandard care.
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