One of my proudest moments at SAMHSA was being able to join with the White House to announce the publication of the first ever federal report on ending conversion therapy and supporting LGBTQ youth.
In April of 2015, in a response to a petition on WhiteHouse.gov sparked by the death by suicide of a transgender girl named Leelah Alcorn, the Administration openly condemned conversion therapy efforts for minors. Leelah’s tragic death highlighted family rejection and conversion therapy as public health issues contributing to negative behavioral health outcomes for LGBTQ youth across the country.
The White House’s support for this issue led SAMHSA to increase its efforts to provide mental health professionals and families with accurate information about effective and ineffective therapeutic practices related to childrens’ and adolescents sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
Working with national behavioral health experts, we put together an in-depth report on conversion therapy, which we are proud to have released in October of 2015.
This report provides a review of existing research on conversion therapy. It also provides clinical information for providers and families that will help them to understand what we know and what we do not know about conversion therapy and the distress it causes, as well as any other distress relating to sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression.
Here’s what we do know:
- Variations in sexual orientation, gender identity, and gender expression are normal.
- Conversion therapies or other efforts to change sexual orientation or gender identity are not effective, reinforce harmful gender stereotypes, and are not appropriate mental health practices. Most importantly, they may put young people at risk of serious harm.
Coming out is a hard thing to do – especially for a young person. Many people struggle to find acceptance and affirmation in their LGBTQ identities. We know that LGBTQ young people already have greatly increased risk of mental illness, substance abuse, and suicide, and they need our support.
Please take a look at this report, and share it with friends, families, and healthcare providers – especially if someone you know might need a little help understanding how to be supportive.
We also have a resource guide for families and practitioners to learn more about supporting LGBTQ youth, which was developed with the Family Acceptance Project.
Together, we can support LGBTQ youth in becoming healthy, happy and whole members of our communities.