Deidra Carroll Coleman, DrPH, a postdoctoral research fellow at Cizik School of Nursing at UTHealth Houston, wants to help curb mental health disparities among lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) youth of color. She will use a $15,000 Dean’s Research Award to study stressors experienced among this population as a first-step toward developing culturally relevant, theory- and evidence-based interventions to help improve mental health outcomes.
“LGB youth are more likely to experience mental health problems than their heterosexual peers,” said Coleman. “Without intervention, these mental health illnesses will potentially follow these youth into adulthood.”
Her pilot study, titled “Determinants of mental health morbidity among LGB youth of color: A mixed methods study of intersectional perspectives,” is geared toward young people ages 14-18 and their parents from Black, Asian, and Hispanic families.
“Empirical evidence has demonstrated that parental support is key for LGB youth, and one of the most important factors impacting their current and future mental health state,” said Coleman.
Yet, only one in three youth who identify as LGB report living in a positive and accepting home environment. Moreover, research has shown that parental rejection is more prominent among Black and Latinx families than in White families. For this reason, Coleman is also studying how parents of color think about their child’s sexual identity.
“To date, no research has focused on how parental responses are formed to LGB youths’ identities,” said Coleman. “Without a clear understanding of the fears, beliefs, values, and goals driving parental rejection, efforts to improve mental health outcomes for youth will likely be curtailed.”
The study has two objectives. The first is to identify stressors associated with anxiety, depression, and substance use among the population; the second is to assess how parents appraise their child’s LGB identity and the extent to which this disposition is related to parents’ own mental health outcomes.
The research team will attempt to collect insights via a web-based survey and in-depth interviews. Coleman will use a series of social media ads to recruit participants for the study. She hopes her work can help move the needle to improve mental health for this vulnerable population – an issue that is close to her heart.
“Interventions for mitigating stress, especially within the home environment, are urgently needed to improve the mental health and well-being of these increasingly marginalized youth,” she said.
Laura Frnka Davis