LGBTQ youth face barriers to quality healthcare

Posted on May 19, 2022

In Maine, 13.6% of high school students identify as LGBTQ+1. This number is likely underestimated due to limited reporting and lack of data regarding many other sexual orientations and gender identities. Unfortunately, LGBTQ+ individuals face barriers to accessing healthcare due to negative experiences within the medical community, lack of services for the LGBTQ+ community, and many more2. One of the most challenging points of healthcare to access is mental health services. This is especially concerning considering LGBTQ+ youth have worse mental health outcomes. For example, current data indicates that LGBTQ+ students are more likely to feel sad or hopeless, have long-term emotional or behavior problems, and are four times more likely to have considered suicide1.

Physicians can help knock down the barriers to healthcare access for LGBTQ+ individuals by providing a comfortable and inclusive environment for all patients. This includes using inclusive language and asking all patients about their sexual orientation and gender identity. In the field of Pediatrics, where mental health challenges are extremely prevalent and our patients are undergoing identity moratorium, it is important to be mindful of how we can best support children who may identify as members of the LGBTQ+ community. In terms of progress, some EMRs in the MaineHealth system are now able to include SOGI (Sexual Orientation and Gender identity) data. For example, a patient’s sexual orientation and gender identity are noted in addition to their assigned sex at birth and legal sex. This helps physicians provide more accurate and compassionate care for all patients. As many students still do not feel safe at home or in school, physicians must provide more comprehensive and appropriate care. We can do so by becoming increasingly aware of the increased risks LGBTQ+ students face related to physical and mental health.

Written by Emma Freeman, MS3 at Tufts University School of Medicine

Edited by Thomas LaJoie, MS3 at Tufts University School of Medicine


  1. Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey. “Maine Integrated Youth Health Survey 2019: LGBT Student Health".
  2. The Trevor Project. 2020. “Breaking Barriers to Quality Mental Health Care for LGBTQ Youth”.