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LGBTQ+ kids in Colorado are struggling. Finding the right therapist is yet another hurdle.

Maddie Maes and her mother sit on their couch.
©Leigh Paterson/KUNC: Maddie Maes and her mother, Kristin Vera, pose for a photo on their couch at home in Fort Collins. After struggling to find affirming care in the area, Maes now sees a therapist at the Rainbow Circles, a practice focused on LGBTQ+ kids and adults in Fort Collins.

KUNC, by Leigh Patterson, August 21, 2023: Colorado’s LGBTQ+ youth are living with high rates of depression, stress and thoughts of self-harm, but finding treatment in Northern Colorado can be a challenge.

This has been the experience of 15-year-old Maddie Maes. Her mental health has been up and down for most of her life.

“And then in eighth grade, it got so bad. It was so terrible,” Maes said, sitting on the couch with her mom, Kristin Vera, at home in Fort Collins.

Maes said she was sad and anxious all the time. She struggled to talk with strangers and lost friends.

“Her mood was so extraordinarily low. And of course, I was worried about self-harm, suicide and also, it’s just hard to see your kid being miserable,” Vera said.

Maes’ new therapist, who she started seeing during the pandemic, wasn’t the right fit. It was around this time that Maes told her family she was transgender, something she had begun to question as early as third grade.

“And so I do think that they’re related, the gender identity struggle and the depression struggle,” Vera said. “Because feeling like something is just not right is, I think, how Maddie felt. Like something wasn’t right, but she couldn’t name what it was.”

‘It felt like such an emergency’

The family was in a common situation: having a hard time finding appropriate, affordable care for their child in crisis. Kids who identify as LGBTQ+ like Maddie struggle at much higher rates than other youth demographics. According to the 2021 Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, which polls high school students, 74% of transgender respondents experienced persistent sadness and hopelessness. That year, over half seriously considered suicide.

“I felt consumed by it,” Vera said. “It felt like such an emergency to find help for my kid.”

Read more from KUNC here.

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