OLNEY, Md. — A new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released earlier this month revealed that a substantial portion of American teens now struggles with serious mental health challenges.
30% of high school girls seriously considered attempting suicide in 2021, according to the report.
For American high schoolers, the CDC identifies as "LGBQ+," that figure was 45%. The survey in 2021 didn't have questions about gender identity so data for transgender students is not available. The agency says it plans to add gender questions to this year's survey.
Rachel Albright wasn't surprised by that statistic.
"I was a teenage girl," she said. "I was a queer teenage girl and the fact is that you know, a lot of kids struggle with not being accepted by their peers, not being accepted by their family."
Albright and her boyfriend Dustin Foley run a barbershop in Falls Church, VA. On Sunday morning they were outside the Olney Library in Montgomery County, standing in support of a drag story hour for kids taking place inside.
"Storytime in a library shouldn't have politics attached," said Foley.
Still, a small group of protestors gathered nearby. Some, like Lynette Hall, emphasized their Christian faith and argued kids, many of whom were around 5 years old according to event organizers, were too young to participate.
"I'm here to support not bringing children to story hour," said Hall. "It's about the children, it has nothing to do with the drag queen."
But Ruth Richman argued protests like these, even when they're small, convey a damaging message to LGBTQ+ kids that they're outsiders--the exact kind of message that leads some to consider self-harm.
"I don't understand the protestors," she said. "I don't understand why people would protest my daughter, my grandson."
Professor David Huebner, a clinical psychologist at George Washington University, said researchers are still trying to determine what's causing so many teens to contemplate suicide. However, he has some theories.
"With respect to LGBTQ youth, we've seen these challenges for a long time but we don't need to look any further than some of the political rhetoric that's happening right now," he said. "Young LGBT people are sort of a political football."
A small corner of that political battle unfolded in Olney Sunday morning with supporters of the drag story hour on one side and protestors on the other.
Across the street from them both, a large banner stood in the front yard of a church.
"Love thy neighbor," it read. "No exceptions!"
Albright thought it had the right idea.
"There are people out there that will love you," she said. "All you have to do is go out there and find them."
If you or someone you know is struggling, Professor Huebner says research shows therapy can help kids who are struggling and suggests reaching out to a pediatrician to recommend a good therapist.
In an emergency, you can also call the Suicide and Crisis Lifeline by dialing 988.