Growing up is hard.
There’s questions of identity, struggles with self-esteem and the ever-winding maze finding out how you fit in. Those searches of adolescence are amplified if you’re an LGBTQ teen.
That’s why Community Health Plan of Washington, a nonprofit managed health care plan, has created an online resource to help LGBTQ youth navigate health issues they may encounter.
The resource center is free and open to everyone, not just Community Health customers. It features coming out stories, a nurse advice line (1-866-418-2920) that’s available 24/7, a search tool to help people locate a doctor or clinic near them, legal resources and other resources aimed at building self-esteem and explaining gender and sexuality.
“Many individuals in the LGBTQ community experience challenges to accessing health care and navigating the system and they are dealing with some challenges sometimes that many of us aren’t dealing with,” said Julie Keeffe, a registered nurse with CHPW. “Folks in that community can face hostility or ignorance from people they’re encountering to get those resources, which is unfortunate and lots of times they have a fear of discrimination, which prevents them from being open to their doctors when they do access care if they can even get to care.”
The resource center is intended to make searching for health care easier and more welcoming, but it also provides information that answers common questions and helps youth with identity struggles. She explained that LGBTQ youths experience stress, anxiety and depression at higher rates than their heterosexual peers.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide is the third-leading cause of death among people ages 10 to 24, and lesbian, gay and bisexual youth in middle and high school are twice as likely to attempt suicide as their heterosexual peers.
Keeffe said LGBTQ youth can feel isolated, “because they feel like their bodies don’t match who they are,” Keeffe said. “That can create some confusion. They might be afraid to talk to someone because they feel like they might be rejected, bullied or harassed. That’s a real volatile time.”
The CDC reports LGBTQ youth experience physical and sexual violence in their dating relationships at higher rates. Keeffe said finding positive relationships, platonically and romantically, can be challenging for LGBTQ youth. Keeffe hopes the resource center can be a helpful guide along the journey of adolescence.
“Everybody deserves to feel supported about who they are as an individual,” Keeffe said.
Visit the online resource center at www.chpw.org/lgbtq-youth-resources