LGBTQ+ self-management in child and youth mental health


Evidence shows that one in three adolescents in the United Kingdom who identify as LGBTQ+ have a mental health disorder, including emotional problems like anxiety or depression (NHS Digital, 2018). LGBTQ+ young people may choose to self-manage their emotional health, yet little is known about the barriers and facilitators to their self-management, how LGBTQ+ self-management may interact with outness and minority stress, and the effect that self-management may have on anxiety and depression for LGBTQ+ young people. This PhD project investigated how LGBTQ+ self-manage their mental health. The findings from this project have implications for policy and interventions affecting LGBTQ+ young people in the United Kingdom. 

Key Findings

LGBTQ+ adolescents have higher prevalence of emotional problems than their non-LGBTQ+ peers, yet they are less likely to access specialist mental health services. Self-management may be a preferred source of support for this minoritised group.  

Qualitative interviews, focus groups and an anonymous online survey were conducted with LGBTQ+ adolescents to determine the factors affecting the self-management of their emotional health, and to understand how their experiences of self-management could be related to anxiety, depression, outness and minority stress.

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to LGBTQ+ adolescents’ emotional health, our study findings suggested:

  • A single, accessible term that encapsulates self-management, self-help and self-care, such as ‘self and community approaches’, should be used in this research context.
  • Safe, simple-to-navigate digital spaces would support LGBTQ+ adolescents to access resources while remaining anonymous.
  • Self-management often requires social or peer support, and research and investment in mentoring, coaching or support within schools and communities could improve peer support structures.

Rosa Town has published a paper in European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry detailing the findings of the first empirical study of this PhD: A qualitative investigation of LGBTQ+ young people’s experiences and perceptions of self-managing their mental health. This article was reviewed by The Mental Elf and the review can be read here

She has also published a protocol for a scoping review in JBI Evidence Synthesis: Self-management, self-care, and self-help in adolescents with emotional problems: a scoping review protocol. Her scoping review was then published in European Child and Adolescent Psychiatry here.

Rosa has presented her findings at several conferences and events, including the National LGBTQ Health Conference 2021, the Qualitative Research on Mental Health (QRMH) Conference 2021 (Online), the International Association For Youth Mental Health (IAYMH) Conferences 2019 (Brisbane, Australia) and 2022 (Copenhagen, Denmark), the 2021 Barts and Queen Mary Science Festival which focused on engaging research with older secondary school pupils, and the 14th international conference on early intervention in mental health (IEPA) in Lausanne, Switzerland, in 2023.

Rosa's poster 'LGBTQ+ young people’s experiences and perceptions of self-managing their mental health' was sent to participating schools to start interesting and engaging discussions around the issues that may affect older school students and their peers. You can view Rosa's poster here

On 16 November 2022, Rosa hosted a community event on LGBTQ+ Young People’s Emotional Health Self-Management. The event, hosted at Queer Britain in King’s Cross, explored emotional health self-management amongst LGBTQ+ young people in London. Read more about the event here.

A series of videos have been co-produced using footage from the event, where young people share their experiences of emotional health self-management to suppot other LGBTQ+ young people across the UK. View the videos here.

Rosa’s research findings have fed into the development of a self-management and shared decision making-focussed NHS website called NCL Waiting Room. This website, developed by the Tavistock and Portman and led by Fred Peel, aims to help young people, parents / carers and professionals better understand the wellbeing options across North Central London (spanning the London Boroughs of Camden, Islington, Barnet, Enfield and Haringey). Visit the website by clicking here.

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