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Supportive environment does little for LGBTQ youth mental health

Though LGBTQ youth have easier access to support and resources, Hammack said, they also have more ways to find hate and discrimination



University of California Santa Cruz (Photo Credit: UC Santa Cruz)

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. – The mental health crisis among LGBTQ youth is well documented. But does a supportive environment change the outlook for queer kids? According to researchers at the University of California Santa Cruz, the answer, surprisingly, was no.

The study, published by the American Psychological Association earlier this month, compared LGBTQ teens in the Bay Area – home to one of the most progressive cities in the U.S., San Francisco – and California’s Central Valley, an agriculture-rich and conservative region. It found little difference in the mental health outcomes between the two communities. 

Overall, according to UC Santa Cruz, 41% of LGBTQ teens reported “clinically-concerning levels” of depressive symptoms. The rate was 10% among all California adolescents.

“Queer teens are not doing well in terms of mental health,” Phil Hammack, the study’s lead author and director of the Sexual and Gender Diversity Laboratory at UC Santa Cruz, told the Los Angeles Blade. “And it doesn’t matter if they live in a well resourced environment.”

The findings come as the Trevor Project, a nonprofit focused on LGBTQ youth suicide prevention, found that rates of suicidal thoughts have trended upward among queer young people over the last three years. According to its 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, 45% of LGBTQ youth seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year.

“The impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and relentless political attacks during this time period cannot be understated,” said Amit Paley, CEO and executive director of the Trevor Project, in a statement

In 2022, over 300 anti-LGBTQ+ bills have surfaced in 36 state legislatures, according to the Human Rights Campaign – the largest LGBTQ+ advocacy organization in the U.S. The legislation overwhelmingly targets transgender youth, according to the nonprofit, from blocking participation in sports to baring access to gender-affirming care. Additionally, local school boards have become a hotbed for LGBTQ discrimination, according to advocates. 

However, it is generally thought that higher acceptance levels lessen the blow to LGBTQ mental health. In fact, the Trevor Project found LGBTQ youth who believed their school to be affirming reported lower rates of attempting suicide. Hammack’s research calls this way of thinking into question. 

The researchers surveyed 314 teens across the Bay Area and Central Valley between 2015 and 2017. The survey was supplemented with 28 interviews with regional LGBTQ youth leaders and first-hand fieldwork by the researchers. 

The research found that youth in the Bay Area saw their community as more supportive of LGBTQ+ people, while those in the Central Valley reported more anti-LGBTQ+ remarks and higher levels of stigma. Yet, researchers found little difference when it came to mental health, leading Hammack to conclude that the safe “bubble” of a highly-resourced community is not enough to buffer against broader anti-LGBTQ stigma. 

Phil Hammack
Photo By Melissa de White, UC Santa Cruz

According to Hammack, it comes down to a matter of expectations. Though LGBTQ people have more resources in large urban areas, like San Francisco, they also have more expectations. 

“We found that in the Bay Area, those young people had much higher expectations of the adults and the institutions in their environment,” Hammack said. “So, they were kind of perpetually disappointed.” 

On the flip side, LGBTQ youth in the Central Valley had easier to exceed expectations. Young people in the region were apt to think “it’s getting better” or “it’s better than you may think,” according to Hammack. 

Though not included in the research, Hammack believes social media played a role in the outcome. “Social media and the internet, in a lot of ways, has created more commonalities among [LGBTQ] youth in both positive and negative ways.”

Though LGBTQ youth have easier access to support and resources, Hammack said, they also have more ways to find hate and discrimination. 

LGBTQ media advocacy group GLAAD analyzed the five major social media platforms – Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and TikTok – in 2022, finding none scored over a 50% for LGBTQ safety, privacy and expression

Recently, the social media account Libs of TikTok has grabbed headlines for spreading what advocates call anti-LGBTQ hate speech. The account was temporarily suspended from Meta’s Facebook for falsehoods attacking Boston Children’s Hospital’s gender-affirming treatments. As of Friday, Libs of TikTok was still active on Twitter and Facebook. 

“Especially in the Central Valley, young people talked a lot about being able to find other people using online methods, and that boosted their mental health and provided some level of social support,” said Hammack. “But, at the same time, there’s also hate speech and lots of negative things that can come your way.” 

According to researchers, the study suggests a need for more systemic changes to support youth in Generation Z, the generation with the largest LGBTQ population. Teens in the study also said they found mental health services, online and in-person support resources and peer social support to be particularly helpful. 

Still, Hammack believes the study shows a need to scale up LGBTQ support efforts across society. “We’ve gotta get out of our complacency,” he said.

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LA County Public Health expands Monkeypox vaccination eligibility

Eligible residents can go to a Public vaccinating site or visit to find other vaccinating sites near you



Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health has expanded eligibility to the monkeypox vaccine to closely align with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s recent expansion, which includes persons in select occupational groups whose jobs may expose them to orthopoxviruses (such as monkeypox).

Monkeypox vaccine will be available to residents who self-attest to being in the following groups:

  • Gay, bisexual or other men who have sex with men or transgender people who have sex with men or other transgender people
  • Persons of any gender or sexual orientation who engage in commercial and/or transactional sex
  • Persons living with HIV, especially persons with uncontrolled or advanced HIV disease
  • Persons who had skin-to-skin or intimate contact with someone with suspected or confirmed monkeypox, including those who have not yet been confirmed by Public Health
  • (NEW) Sexual partners of people in any of the above groups
  • (NEW) People who anticipate being in any of the above groups

Monkeypox vaccine is also available for persons in select occupational groups whose may be exposed to orthopoxviruses including:

  • Research laboratory personnel working with orthopoxviruses
  • Clinical laboratory personnel performing diagnostic testing for orthopoxviruses
  • Designated public health response team members
  • Health care personnel who administer ACAM2000 (Smallpox [Vaccinia] Vaccine)
  • Designated health care workers who care for persons with suspected or confirmed orthopoxvirus infections, including clinicians and environmental services personnel

Note that the risk of monkeypox transmission remains very low for health care workers if appropriate personal protective equipment is worn and other infection control practices are followed.

Eligible residents can go to a Public vaccinating site or visit to find other vaccinating sites near you.

Residents do not need to show ID in order to get a vaccine at sites run by Public Health. However, because residents may need to show vaccination record and ID if you travel or visit certain venues, it is recommended that when getting a vaccine that residents provide the name that is on their ID.

Residents who met prior eligibility criteria can still get vaccinated (see below for prior criteria).

Gay or bisexual men or transgender people who:

  • Had multiple or anonymous sex partners in the past 14 days
  • Had skin-to-skin or intimate contact with persons at venues or events in the past 14 days
  • Had a history of early syphilis or gonorrhea in the past 12 months
  • Are on HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP)
  • Had anonymous sex or sex with multiple partners in the past 21 days in a commercial sex venue or other venue.

Residents who have monkeypox symptoms or are currently under isolation for monkeypox, should not come to the vaccination clinics or walk-up sites. If residents think they have monkeypox, they should speak with a provider and get tested. If residents do not have a provider, residents can call the Public Health Call Center for more information on monkeypox, including general information, testing, treatment, and vaccines at (833) 540-0473 (open 7 days a week 8am – 8:30pm).

For more information, please visit:   

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Los Angeles County Supervisors approve sick leave for monkeypox

Both coronavirus and the monkeypox outbreak has disproportionately affected essential workers, who are predominantly Black and Latino



The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors meeting room (Photo Credit: County of Los Angeles)

LOS ANGELES – The Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a motion Tuesday, sponsored by Supervisors Hilda Solis and Sheila Kuehl, which directs County attorneys to report back to the board in three weeks on how the County could implement a paid sick leave policy for people who contract monkeypox, or other new and emerging infectious diseases.

The Board also is urging California Governor Gavin Newsom to extend the state’s coronavirus supplemental paid sick leave by signing the AB-152 COVID-19 relief leave bill.

Supervisor Solis prior to the vote pointed out that both coronavirus pandemic and the monkeypox outbreak has disproportionately affected essential workers, who are predominantly Black and Latino.

Solis further noted that without a form of paid sick leave, are in most cases, unable to take the recommended five to 10 days to isolate for COVID-19 — much less the two to four weeks needed to isolate for the duration of a monkeypox diagnosis as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention as well as the County Dept. of Public Health .

During a monkeypox townhall hosted by the Blade in East Los Angeles last week, which was also attended by Supervisor Solis, Sherrill Brown, M.D, AltaMed’s Medical Director of Infection Prevention, in her presentation noted the need for economic relief.

In her practice treating primarily Latino monkeypox cases at AltaMed clinics in Los Angeles and Orange Counties, she told the townhall attendees she was hearing some of her patients were having difficulty with the required isolation protocols because of their economic needs.

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Unvaccinated 14 times more likely to contract monkeypox

Racial disparities persist in new cases of monkeypox as Black & Latino people are overrepresented in the numbers



White House Monkeypox Response Team and Public Health Officials (Screenshot/YouTube)

WASHINGTON – U.S. health officials are celebrating preliminary data on the vaccine used in the monkeypox outbreak, which has led them to conclude eligible persons who didn’t get a shot were 14 times more likely to become infected than those who are vaccinated.

The new data, as described by health officials on the White House monkeypox task force during a call with reporters on Wednesday, comes as the overall number of new cases of monkeypox is in sharp decline, although considerable racial disparities persist in the remaining cases as Black and Latino people are overrepresented in the numbers.

Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, said during the conference call the preliminary data — collected from 32 states between July 2022 and September 2022 — provides an early shapshot of the effectiveness of the vaccine and cause for optimism on the path forward.

“These new data provide us with a level of cautious optimism that the vaccine is working as intended,” Walkensky said. “These early findings and similar results from studies and other countries suggest even one dose of the monkeypox vaccine offers at least some initial protection against infection.”

Walensky during the conference call admitted the data is incomplete in numerous ways. For example, the data is based on information on individuals who have obtained only the first shot as opposed to both shots in the two-shot vaccination process. (The data showing positive results from individuals who have only one shot contradicts previous warnings from the same U.S. health officials that one shot of the monkeypox vaccine was insufficient.)

The data also makes no distinction between individuals who have obtained a shot through subcutaneous injection, a more traditional approach to vaccine administration, as opposed to intradermal injection, which is a newer approach adopted in the U.S. guidance amid the early vaccine shortage. Skeptics of the new approach have said data is limited to support the idea the intradermal injection is effective, particularly among immunocompromised people with HIV who have been at higher risk of contracting monkeypox.

Not enumerated as part of the data were underlying numbers leading health officials to conclude the unvaccinated were 14 times more likely to contract monkeypox as opposed to those with a shot, as well as any limiting principle on the definition of eligible persons. Also unclear from the data is whether individual practices in sexual behavior had any role in the results.

Despite the positive data on the monkeypox vaccine based on one shot, U.S. health officials warned during the conference call the two-shot approach to vaccine administration is consistent with their guidance and more effective.

Demetre Daskalakis, the Biden administration’s face of LGBTQ outreach for monkeypox and deputy coordinator for the White House monkeypox task force, made the case that for individuals at risk obtaining a second dose is “really important.”

“So we see some response after the first [shot] in the laboratory, but the really high responses that we want to really get — that you know, level 10 forcefield as opposed to the level five forcefield — doesn’t happen until the second dose,” Daskalakis said. “So the important message is this just tells us to keep on trucking forward because we need that second dose at arms that people haven’t gotten the first should start their series of two vaccines.”

Also during the call, health officials said they would be expanding opportunities for vaccines as pre exposure prophylaxis, as opposed to practices in certain regions granting vaccines in their limited supply to individuals who meet certain criteria or have had risk of exposure.

The Centers of Disease Control & Prevention, officials said, is also updating its guidance to allow injection of the vaccines in places other than a patient’s arm.

Daskalakis said fear of stigma about getting a noticeable shot in the forearm after obtaining a monkeypox vaccine was a key part of the decision to issue the new guidance on implementation.

“Many jurisdictions and advocates have told us that some people declined vaccine to monkeypox because of the stigma associated with the visible but temporary mark often left on their forearm,” Daskalakis said. “New guidance from CDC allows people who don’t want to risk a visible mark on their forearm to offer a vaccine on their skin by their shoulder or their upper back. Those are areas more frequently covered by clothes.”

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