U.S. Senators Tina Smith, Laphonza Butler Introduce Legislation to Combat LGBTQ+ Mental Health Crisis

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] Today, U.S. Senators Tina Smith (D – Minn.) and Laphonza Butler (D-Calif.) — the first Black and openly LGBTQ+ senator to serve in the Senate — led five Senate colleagues in introducing the Pride in Mental Health Act which would strengthen mental health and crisis intervention resources for at-risk LGBTQ+ youth.

“Mental health care is health care. And for some LGBTQ+ youth, receiving access to the mental health care they need can mean the difference between living in safety and dignity, and suffering alone through discrimination, bullying, and even violence,” said Senator Smith. “The data shows what many parents and educators see every day—an epidemic of students in classrooms dealing with anxiety, depression and other serious mental health conditions, with nowhere to turn. Meeting LGBTQ+ students where they already are—in school—helps us break down the stigma they might face and get kids the health care they need.”

“Accessing mental health care and support has become increasingly difficult in nearly every state in the country,” said Senator Butler. “Barriers get even more difficult if you are a young person who lacks a supportive community or is fearful of being outed, harassed, or threatened. I am introducing the Pride in Mental Health Act to help equip LGBTQ+ youth with the resources to get the affirming and often life-saving care they need.”

LGBTQ+ youth experience disproportionate rates of mental health challenges. A 2023 study found that 54 percent of LGBTQ+ youth reported symptoms of depression, while only 35 percent of heterosexual youth reported similar feelings. LGBTQ+ high school students are also four times more likely to attempt suicide. These discrepancies can be linked to discrimination and lack of a supportive community in schools or at home. LGBTQ+ youth who found their school or home to be LGBTQ+ affirming reported significantly lower rates of suicide attempts.

In Minnesota, providers have noted a significant increase in the number of LGBTQ+ youth needing mental health care intervention in recent years. Minnesota has also seen more demand for LGBTQ+ mental health services due to more families with transgender and nonbinary children moving to the state to take advantage of new protections passed by the state legislature last year.

The Pride in Mental Health Act would:

  1. Award grants for Mental Health Services to eligible entities to assess and improve lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, nonbinary, intersex, and Two Spirit youth mental health and substance use outcomes.
  2. Require eligible entities to utilize funds to:
    • Provide cultural competency training for caregivers.
    • Develop and disseminate behavioral health and crisis intervention resources to improve LGBTQ+ youth mental health and substance use outcomes.
    • Collect data with respect to the behavioral health of LGBTQ+ youth.
    • Issue school bullying prevention guidelines with respect to LGBTQ+ youth.
    • Integrate behavioral health services for LGBTQ+ youth in school systems.
  1. Prohibit funds to be used for conversion therapy, efforts to assist or facilitate conversion therapy, and directing individuals to conversion therapy.
  2. Direct the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to review and update resources listed on their website that pertain to LGBTQ+ communities.
  3. Commission a report on the mental health outcomes and care of LGBTQ+ youth in foster care and other federal social services programs

Full text of this bill can be found HERE.