Addressing the Gap: The need for increased mental health support for LGBTQ Michiganders

There’s been an increased focus on mental health since the pandemic. Employers, businesses and schools are making mental health a priority through training and services. 

Yet despite these efforts there is still one community that struggles to find help when it comes to their mental health: LGBTQ Michiganders.

Unmet needs: 60% of LGBTQ youth in Michigan lack access to mental health care

In fact, 76% of LGBTQ youth in Michigan reported experiencing anxiety. What’s even more concerning? The 60% of LGBTQ youth in Michigan who wanted mental health care in the past year who were not able to get it. That’s according to the Trevor Project , a national suicide prevention organization for LGBTQ youth. The nonprofit recently conducted its National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health by State

There’s no doubt there is a need for more mental health services for the LGBTQ community in Michigan. And several organizations are working to improve response to that need.

Josh Williams.
Community Efforts: LifeWays in Jackson, Michigan prioritizing LGBTQ mental health

LifeWays in Jackson, Michigan is a community mental health services program that is prioritizing the LGTBQ community after seeing an increase in mental health needs in that population. Josh Williams, the executive director of quality management at LifeWays, says they want to make sure those in the LGBTQ community are getting mental health services and also getting them in an equitable way. 

He asks, “If therapy needs to look different through a gender affirming care lens, how can we do that? How do we tailor our services to meet that population’s needs?”

To accomplish that goal, LifeWays developed a community survey to help guide the decisions they make surrounding new mental health programs for the LGBTQ community.

“We really want to hear from the most diverse populations," says Williams. 

The information from the survey will be used to find the needs in the LGBTQ community and design mental health programs that better understand LGBTQ patients. 

LifeWays' focus groups will provide feedback to inform services for its LGBTQ+ community.
LifeWays is also putting together focus groups to discuss this same issue. Williams says it’s about community involvement in designing LGBTQ programs. 

He says, “We wanted to understand the problem, and then brainstorm solutions, and then create a community where we could take those potential solutions back to them and say you told us these experiences. This is what we were thinking could help. What are your thoughts?” 

LifeWays’ administrators hope to have the results of both the community survey and the focus groups completed by the end of the year. 

But their outreach doesn’t stop with community members. In February, LifeWays partnered with Dr. Adrienne Rowland, a clinical social worker and therapist who developed affirming care training for health care providers. The goal is to educate physicians providing care to members of the LGBTQ community so they have a knowledge of their needs as patients and can make health care more inclusive. 

Summit Pointe's First Step Psychiatric Urgent Care.
Advocacy and support: Summit Pointe focuses on LGBTQ youth mental health needs

In Battle Creek, community mental health agency Summit Pointe focuses on the role community plays within mental health. During the 2023 Battle Creek Pride Festival, Summit Pointe hosted a booth to help reach the LGBTQ community. Summit Point outpatient therapist Carolyn Krupp says it was a way to have personal conversations with the LGBTQ community. 

“I think it was a great step to normalize and invite people in the LGBTQ community to consider their mental health,” Krupp says. “I know it is an underserved population. And one of the challenges is helping people who have been stigmatized know that this is a place where they’re not going to experience that same reaction.” 

Krupp says one of the biggest needs is advocacy. 

“I believe their lack of support, their lack of acceptance, and the outright bullying behavior is definitely a huge contributor to the potential for suicide,” she says. 

And she’s not wrong. According to the Trevor report, 45% of LGBTQ youth in Michigan seriously considered suicide in 2021.

In the next few years, Krupp says she would like Summit Pointe to be able to create a youth program in schools.

“So, kids go to the group at school. They get all their needs met in the school,” Krupp says. “And the teachers are involved in helping build that community and make school a safe place.” 

She’d also like to see more staff training “and getting more people trained in the specific mental health needs in the LGBTQ community.” 

Krupp would like Summit Pointe to be a place where every LGBTQ individual in Michigan feels empowered and embraced in their journey towards positive mental health.

In 2021, 34% of LGBTQ youth in Michigan said they were physically threatened or harmed.
Creating inclusive spaces: Ozone House provides shelter and mental health services for LGBTQ youth

Knowing where to get mental health help is important. But sometimes, LGBTQ youth need a safe place to stay. In 2021, 34% of LGBTQ youth in Michigan said they were physically threatened or harmed, according to the Trevor Project. In Washtenaw County those who feel they are in danger can find a safe place at the Ozone House. The youth-based shelter provides a place for LGBTQ and other youth to stay for a night or several weeks. During that time, they have access to mental health services. Those services are available thanks to a mental health and public safety millage approved in 2017 that covers the costs of treatment.

Elizabeth Spring-Nichols is the program administrator for youth and family services for Washtenaw County Community Mental Health. She says Ozone House has made a huge difference in the community.

“We need a place like this, that is really youth driven, where youth can be a part of activities,” she says. “Kids want to feel like they belong. Ozone welcomes everybody, and it’s a place where everybody can feel like they belong.” 

Spring-Nichols adds youth at Ozone House feel connected to their community because of how supportive staff are in accepting them and encouraging them to be proud of who they are.

Ozone House Youth Day at the Park.
Persistent stigma: Over half of LGBTQ youth in Michigan fear discussing mental health

With all the positive work being done, the fact remains that 51% of LGBTQ Youth in Michigan are afraid to talk about their mental health with someone else. 

However, the dedication and efforts of organizations like LifeWays, Summit Pointe, and the Ozone House alongside initiatives such as affirming care training and community outreach, offer hope for a brighter future. By continuing to prioritize inclusivity, advocacy, and accessibility in mental health services, Michigan can strive towards a future where all LGBTQ youth and adults feel supported, accepted, and empowered in their journey towards mental wellness.

Valerie Lego has been reporting on health and lifestyle stories in West Michigan for 18 years. Her health reporting credentials include fellowships from the National Institutes of Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Association of Health Care Journalists.

LifeWays photos by Doug Coombe.
Summit Pointe Urgent Care photo by John Grap.
Josh Williams photo courtesy subject.
Ozone House photo courtesy YBMen Project.
Other photos by Zen Chung and Brett Sayles via

The MI Mental Health series highlights the opportunities that Michigan's children, teens, and adults of all ages have to find the mental health help they need, when and where they need it. It is made possible with funding from the Community Mental Health Association of MichiganCenter for Health and Research TransformationLifeWaysMental Health Foundation of West MichiganNorthern Lakes CMH AuthorityOnPointSanilac County CMHSt. Clair County CMHSummit Pointe, and Washtenaw County CMH.
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