Throughout this period of political chaos and a global pandemic, students have continuously been asked to adapt to the “new normal.” Though this pressure affects everyone, we have found it particularly difficult as LGBTQ+ students.

Online learning makes it more difficult for students and teachers to form close, one-on-one relationships. As a result, students who are navigating their sexual orientation or gender identity are finding it harder to turn to their favorite teachers for advice. This matters because students with unaccepting parents no longer have safe spaces at school where they can exist as themselves. Transgender students can no longer rely on teachers to help enforce the use of their correct names and pronouns. And a lack of easy access to school counselors makes it harder to reach out for help with mental-health struggles.

To help improve the mental health of LGBTQ+ students like us, teachers must establish their classes as safe spaces, develop systems to routinely check in on students, and connect students to the resources they need to maintain their mental health.

According to a 2019 report, 87 percent of school-based mental-health professionals believe it is their responsibility to provide supportive counseling to LGBTQ+ students, and 80 percent believe they shouldn’t avoid discussion of students’ sexual orientation and gender identities. As LGBTQ youth, we are relieved to see progress, but we will not stop until 100 percent of professionals feel a need and desire to support their students of all identities.

During times of personal, national, and global stress, LGBTQ+ youth experience unique mental health challenges, and supportive teachers and school counselors are crucial to our well-being. We encourage teachers to do the little things: add a safe space sticker to your digital classroom, ask students to add their pronouns to their Zoom names and to state them when they introduce themselves, have LGBTQ+ resources readily available for students to access, and offer out-of-class spaces to strengthen relationships with students.

Read the full article about LGBTQ resources during the pandemic by Jaiden Blancaflor and Reggie Eaton at The Hechinger Report.