The Mental Health Crisis in Our Community

It should come as no surprise that LGBTQ+ Minnesotans, especially young people, are in a mental health crisis. Nearly every day in the news we hear of new anti-LGBTQ+ policies being proposed and adopted. These hateful policies not only steal our community of life-saving health care, but they also rob us of the dignity LGBTQ+ people deserve. While the worst of these policies are happening outside Minnesota, the impact felt here is still real. A recent national survey from the Trevor Project found that 9 out of 10 LGBTQ+ youth in the U.S. say politics have negatively impacted their lives in the past year.

At Rainbow Health, we see every day how this hateful rhetoric affects the mental health of our community. According to our most recent Voices of Health survey, 85% or 6 out of 7 LGBTQ+ Minnesotans last year experienced moderate to severe mental distress. We can’t ignore this crisis.

Now, more than ever it’s vital that our LGBTQ+ and HIV communities have access to affirming mental health care that enables them to live their authentic selves. This is why Rainbow Health offers specialized mental healthcare for youth and adults (ages 14 and up) that directly addresses the high rates of suicide, depression, and anxiety in our community. Our 17 licensed therapists provide culturally responsive, high quality, affirming mental health therapy that is trauma-informed, harm-reduction based, and meets people where they are. Last month alone, our team provided more than 1,100 therapy sessions.

A growing number of therapy sessions at Rainbow Health are with adolescents and young adults. That’s why we’re proud to be partnering with the United Health Foundation (UHF), to increase efforts to address the mental health crisis for LGBTQ+ and BIPOC youth in Minnesota. With the assistance of a $2M UHF grant, Rainbow Health launched its “Free to Be’’ program last year to provide additional staff and support services specifically for this critical population. The Free to Be program offers free access to licensed clinical therapists with expertise and experience with adolescents and young adults aged 14-25 but blends that therapy with case management, referral services, and basic needs such as transportation and housing support. Rainbow Health’s comprehensive approach is based on the belief that mental health means more than the time you spend with your therapist. It means seeing you for who you are and what you need.

Unfortunately, too many in our community are unable to afford the mental health care they need. While insurance can help, 29% of LGBTQ+ people in our Voices of Health survey said they did not have health insurance and too many others trade getting the care they need with putting food on the table.

Founded on the front lines of the AIDS epidemic 40 years ago, we know a health crisis when we see it and we know it takes a community to respond. And because we know mental health means more than talking to a therapist, Rainbow Health combines therapy with other essential services like legal advocacy, health insurance navigation, sexual healthcare, financial assistance, substance use support, and more. No other organization in Minnesota provides this comprehensive array of services, meaning mental health at Rainbow Health is leveraged even further for those who need it most.

Jeremy Hanson Willis, CEO