A new national study by SARAVYC shows that while Canada’s transgender youth face significant physical and mental health issues, strong family, school and community connections are helping many of them navigate these challenges.
The study, funded by the Canadian Institute for Health Research and completed in collaboration with universities and health researchers across Canada, is the first and largest of its kind in Canada, with 923 individuals participating between the ages 14-25. They answered a range of questions in English or French on their home and school life, physical and mental health, access to health care, and gender identity.
Two-thirds of those surveyed reported discrimination because of their gender identity. Not surprisingly, many participants also experienced mental health challenges. Nearly two-thirds reported self-harming in the past year, and more than one in three had attempted suicide.
Health care was also problematic, as only 15 per cent of youth with a family doctor felt “very comfortable” discussing their trans-specific health care needs.
But the report also uncovered positive sources of support for trans youth — parents, family members, schools, and community adults, especially when these adults supported the youth in living in their preferred gender.
Family is an important health influence for all young people, and when trans youth in the survey reported higher levels of family connectedness and support, they had better health.
Trans youth in the survey generally reported low connectedness to school, but when they did feel that teachers cared about them, and they felt they were part of the school, they were twice as likely to report good or excellent mental health.
The report calls for measures to improve the well-being of trans youth, including: improved support for families, so they can better understand and support their transgender children; developing safer, more inclusive schools; retooling health care to provide gender-affirming services for trans youth; and reducing health care disparities between provinces.