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Martha Neary

Martha Neary is the PsyberGuide Project Manager, based at University of California, Irvine. Martha’s broad and varied research interests include healthcare disparities among minority populations, the integration of technology into mental health interventions, and early education, particularly in the areas of health and sexuality.

Pride Month is one of the happiest times of the year for me. It’s a month filled with celebrations, happiness, love and visibility. It’s also a month where I feel grateful to live somewhere where I can freely celebrate and be seen. Amidst all the celebrations and pride, I think it’s important to also reflect on the challenges faced by many people who identify as LGBTQ+, and how resources like PsyberGuide can better serve the community. 

Adults in the LGBTQ+ community are twice as likely as heterosexual adults to experience a mental health problem, and are also at a higher risk than the general population for suicidality. A recent report from the Trevor Project showed that 71% of young people aged 13-24 who identify as LGBTQ+ have reported feeling sad or hopeless for at least two weeks in the past year. 40% of LGBTQ+ youth have seriously considered attempting suicide in the last year, with more than half of transgender and gender non-binary youth having seriously considered. It’s not that there is something about being LGBTQ+ that leads to poorer mental health, but rather the way that the community faces discrimination, prejudice, denial of civil and human rights, and social rejection which can have a significant impact on wellbeing. 

LGBTQ+ mental health and wellbeing should be a public health concern. With so many apps and technologies being developed for mental health (recent estimates suggest there may be as many as 20,000 mental health apps publicly available for download), there must be at least some thinking about this from the perspective of sexual and gender minority health, right? With the findings of the recent Trevor Report weighing on our minds, we set about to find some LGBTQ+ apps to add to our app guide. 

The results were surprisingly sparse. We found two LGBTQ+ specific apps. The first was they2ze, which connects transgender-spectrum youth and their providers to inclusive health services and peer support. The app does not in itself provide any interventional or mental health support, but aims to improve access to care through information on available resources. The second app was Pride Counseling, a platform which connects users to counselors who they can interact with weekly through messaging, scheduled phone calls, video or live chat. Pride Counseling is similar to the popular Talkspace app, which also purports to have LGBTQ focused counselors, although this isn’t the app’s main focus. 

While we’re pleased to see these two apps available on the app stores, we’re disappointed there aren’t more available and hope to see the number of apps with an LGBTQ+ focus expand in future. These apps are needed because they offer affordable, accessible, discreet care. According to the Trevor Project Report, LGBTQ+ youth prefer to receive help and support digitally, and say they would be extremely likely to contact an intervention group during a crisis if that group offered a way to get in touch digitally. So technology really is an important way to get support to these folks when and how they need it. 

Of course, some of the apps already on our app guide can be great resources for anyone looking to support their mental wellbeing, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. But there are distinct experiences, in addition to every day or universal stressors we all deal with, associated with belonging to a minority group. It can help to have resources to help you deal with those unique experiences and stressors, and to receive tailored and relevant support. 

There are some digital supports out there. The Trevor Project have a 24/7 text and online chat support, and have also launched an LGBTQ+-specific social networking site called TrevorSpace. Research in this area is also growing and we’re seeing great work being done by innovative groups like the Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health (ISGMH), who integrate technology into many of their research studies and are starting to explore how to digitally support LGBTQ+ health and wellbeing. We haven’t yet seen these apps or technologies reach the public market, which speaks to the challenges of developing these technologies in an academic or research context. Digital platforms more broadly are also an important space for support for the community, and research has shown that using platforms like Facebook appropriately can be beneficial for the health and well-being of those who identify as LGBTQ+. 

Reviews of apps specifically for minority groups is a top priority for PsyberGuide. In the next year, we hope to identify and review more apps for the LGBTQ+ community. Our target audience filter now allows users to filter for LGBTQ+ — while currently, this filter will just show you two apps, we hope that this number will grow as the field does.If you have an app you’d like to see on PsyberGuide for the LGBTQ+ community, please let us know by emailing info@psyberguide.org

Happy Pride Month from all of us at PsyberGuide!