Thammasat presents research on diverse sexual orientation and gender identity groups at risk of depression

A lecturer from the Faculty of Learning Sciences and Education, Thammasat University, has presented the results of research on mental health among LGBTIQNA+ youth in Thailand, conducted in collaboration with the Faculty of Nursing and the Department of Psychology at the Faculty of Liberal Arts at Thammasat as well as Save the Children (Thailand) Foundation and the Behavioral Science Research Institute at Srinakharinwirot University, at an event titled ‘HEARTS MATTER: Mental Health of Children and Youth with Diverse SOGIESC’ event held at Sam Yan Co-op, organized by Save the Children (Thailand) Foundation together with the Department of Mental Health, Ministry of Public Health.

Dr. Timo Tapani Ojanen, Lecturer from the Faculty of Learning Sciences and Education, Thammasat University, representing the research team, said: “ Our findings clearly show that being a victim of violence, discrimination, or being forced to try to fit in society’s gender and sexuality norms are all bad for the mental health of LGBTIQNA+ children and youth. Other than that, more than half of our participants felt that in the past year, they had problems serious enough to go see a mental health professional, but out of those who felt that way, only one in five actually did receive mental health services, reflecting various problems in accessing these services. Overall, I think we need to address those root causes of mental health problems, and provide more options for LGBTIQNA+ children and youth to receive mental health services that they actually can access and feel comfortable using.”

Dr. Amporn Benjaponpitak, MD., Director General, Department of Mental Health, Ministry of Public Health, who gave opening remarks at the event said that the results of the Mental Health Check conducted by the Department of Mental Health in the past 6 months, indicated that 34,579 people under the age of 20 had a major mental health problem, namely high stress, depression, or the risk of suicide, which is higher than in all other age groups, in part due to the crisis caused by the COVID-19 outbreak.

Children and youth are increasingly affected by mental health problems. In particular, the mental health of LGBTIQNA+ children and youth is even more threatened, both by lack of support (for example from friends), the inability to express themselves openly at home, or even experiencing violence. Some children and youth are under pressure or are being harmed by those around them, whether family, people at their school, or people in their community, only because they do not conform to society’s gender and sexuality norms.

The research investigated mental health issues among LGBTIQNA+ youth aged between 15 to 24 years in Thailand through an online questionnaire that was completed by 3,094 participants, and 38 online interviews. The results showed that 70-80% of the participants had symptoms of anxiety and depression. This group of youths were subjected to various forms of violence, for example, 75.8% had been ridiculed, 42.4% had been forced to try to change their gender identity or sexual orientation, and more than half had experienced sexual harassment either online or offline. The most worrisome finding was that more than half of the participants had contemplated suicide in the past year.

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