Journal of Youth and Adolescence

, Volume 48, Issue 10, pp 1938–1951 | Cite as

School Climate & Sexual and Gender Minority Adolescent Mental Health

  • Sharon ColvinEmail author
  • James E. Egan
  • Robert W. S. Coulter
Empirical Research


Sexual/gender minority (Sexual/gender minority people are also referred to as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer) youth are more likely than cisgender heterosexual youth to exhibit depressive symptoms and be victimized. School climate research indicates that the presence of a Gay–Straight Alliance (a Gay–Straight Alliance or Gender-Sexuality Alliance is also referred to as a GSA and is a youth group to support sexual/gender minority youth), a supportive school climate, and seeking help from teachers are associated with more positive mental health outcomes; however, they are not typically measured together. This study uses a survey that measures all four measures of school environment with a national sample of 240 sexual/gender minority high school students ages 14–18 (mean age 15.77) where 53% of participants had a Gay–Straight Alliance in their school. The sample is 53% cisgender, 100% sexual minority and 62% white. Adjusting for demographics and presence of a Gay–Straight Alliance, fewer depressive symptoms were associated with lower help-seeking intentions for suicidal thoughts. The presence of Gay–Straight Alliance was not statistically associated with past-month help-seeking intentions or behaviors. Additionally, a more supportive school climate was associated with lower anxiety and depressive symptoms. However, the presence of a Gay–Straight Alliance was not statistically associated with anxiety or depressive symptoms. These findings suggest that a supportive school climate and supportive school personnel may be important for supporting the mental health of sexual/gender minority students.


Adolescent mental health School climate Health disparities Sexual and gender minority youth 


Authors' Contributions

SC conceived of the study, performed the statistical analyses and drafted the manuscript; RWSC helped conceive of the study, perform the statistical analysis and draft the manuscript; JE was the principal investigator for the original study where the data was collected and he also helped to draft the manuscript. All authors read and approved of the final manuscript.


The original data collection was supported by the National Institutes of Health, primarily by the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (R21HD083561 to J.E.E. and M.S.F.). In addition, this study was partially supported by the National Institute on Drug Abuse (F31DA037647 to R.W.S.C.), the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences (TL1TR001858 for R.W.S.C.), the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism (K01AA027564 to RWSC).

Data Sharing and Declaration

The datasets analyzed during the current study are not publicly available but are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.

Compliance with Ethical Standards

Conflict of Interest

The authors declare that they have no conflict of interest.

Ethical Approval

The University of Pittsburgh Institutional Review Board approved this project as an analysis of de-identified data and therefore not human subjects research.

Informed Consent

This was a secondary data analysis of a de-identified data set so did not require consent.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Learning Research and Development CenterUniversity of Pittsburgh School of EducationPittsburghUSA
  2. 2.Behavioral and Community Health Sciences, Graduate School of Public HealthUniversity of PittsburghPittsburghUSA

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