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Investigating whether the mental health inequality between LGBTQ+ and heterosexual/cisgender adolescents varies between schools and identifying predictors of variation.

 

Tom Palmer PhD Scholarship 2024 - Investigating novel approaches to

improving prevention, diagnosis or treatment of mental health conditions in

people from marginalised communities.

 

Supervisors: Dr Gemma Lewis, Professor Jessica Deighton, Professor George Ploubidis, Dr Rebekah Amos.

 

Lay Summary: Most mental health problems begin during the teenage years. Depression and anxiety are the most common problems, and their rates are rising. LGBTQ+ young people are twice as likely to experience depression and anxiety than their peers. This inequality in mental health emerges early during the teenage years and over 10% of young people are LGBTQ+. If we could prevent mental health problems in this marginalised group of young people, it would substantially lower overall rates in the general population.

Schools are a setting for interventions that could prevent mental health problems, but we have a poor understanding of which risk factors to target. Our PhD project will be the first to investigate whether inequalities in LGBTQ+ mental health vary between schools, and identify modifiable characteristics of the school environment that might lead to this variation. Examples of the potential characteristics we will investigate include school climate, school connectedness, bullying and discrimination. If the size of the LGBTQ+ mental health inequality varies between schools, it would suggest that the school environment contributes to this inequality. If we identify modifiable school characteristics that lead to these inequalities, we can design interventions to address them.

Our project will use three large datasets which, together, contain data on over 69,000 young people. We will complement these analyses with interviews with LGBTQ+ young people, to gain a deeper understanding of their experiences. Throughout the PhD, we will work closely with LGBTQ+ young people so their lived experiences guide and inform our research.

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