Study Reveals Conversion Therapy For LGBTQ Youth Is Costly And Harmful To Mental Health

Conversion therapy has long been known as a harmful practice that attempts to change a person's sexual orientation or gender identity. Recent research has come out supporting the fact that this practice has harmful consequences for participants' mental health as well as for the economy.

Conversion therapy involves a variety of exercises intended to convert individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, or questioning (LGBTQ) to heterosexual or cisgender norms (via WebMD). According to Good Therapy, a typical conversion therapy session may involve prayer, hypnosis, talk therapy to try to change thought patterns, and in some cases, aversion therapy. Aversion therapy is incredibly controversial because it involves physical methods, like an electric shock or hurting oneself, to try to condition the body and mind.

WebMD points out that because conversion therapy essentially tells a person that they are broken or wrong, this more often than not leads to severe consequences for participants' mental and emotional health. In fact, those who receive conversion therapy are six times more likely to experience severe depression and eight times more likely to attempt suicide.

The emotional and financial cost of conversion therapy

A new study published in JAMA Pediatrics has come out supporting these figures and highlighting the burden that conversion therapy places on individuals and society as a whole. This research reviewed 28 different studies and found that individuals who underwent conversion therapy had significantly higher rates of suicide attempts, depression, and substance abuse. Study authors also reported that in 2021, conversion therapy efforts, as well as the price for the harmful consequences associated with it, ended up costing the U.S. over 9 billion dollars.

Sean Cahill, director of health policy research at the Fenway Institute, an organization that focuses on the health and well-being of LGBTQ individuals, told U.S. News and World Report, "I think it's really important for parents to know that if they have their child do conversion therapy, their child has a greater odds of experiencing serious psychological distress, depression, substance use, and suicide. I would think that a lot of parents would not be happy to learn that."

If you or anyone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline​ at​ 1-800-273-TALK (8255)​.