Slashing gender clinic wait times dramatically helps trans kids’ mental health, study finds
Shorter gender clinic wait times for trans kids leads to lower levels of depression and anxiety, according to a new study.
The research comes from a clinic for trans kids and their families that reduced waiting times by 10 months, resulting in improvements to mental health, family functioning and quality of life.
The research, published in journal Paediatrics, was led by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute (MCRI) in Australia, and tracked 142 young trans people who attended a new fast-track clinic at The Royal Children’s Hospital Gender Service in Melbourne (RCHGS).
“Many transgender children and adolescents experience gender dysphoria,” said MCRI Associate Professor Ken Pang, who was one of the researchers involved in the study.
“They are also at high risk of depression, anxiety, self-harm and suicide, which is likely to be driven not only by gender dysphoria, but also increased exposure to bullying, discrimination, harassment, violence and social isolation.
“We found that family functioning prior to attending the clinic was at an unhealthy level for many of our participants’ families,” Pang said. “But after attending the clinic, this significantly improved.”
“Participants found attending the clinic provided validation, not only for themselves, but also their families, classmates and wider communities,” he added. “This validation had flow on effects, improving their sense of self, boosting their confidence, and increasing parental understanding, acceptance and support.”
The First Assessment Single Session Triage (FASST) clinic was established in 2016 in response to the growing numbers of young people seeking help for gender dysphoria. Globally, waiting times for gender clinics that help trans kids have increased to around two years, Pang said.
Pang added: “Across the globe, increased awareness and understanding of gender diversity have contributed to a marked increase in the number of transgender children and adolescents seeking specialist care. This has placed substantial pressure on clinical resources and wait times for assessment have substantially increased.”
Clinic reduced waiting times by 10 months for trans kids
The FASST clinic is led by a clinical nurse consultant, and reduced initial wait times by 10 months. The clinic triages patients onto a secondary waitlist for additional multidisciplinary care with mental-health clinicians and paediatricians.
One such patient is Mac Zamani, 17, would have waited more than a year for an appointment at a gender clinic if it hadn’t been for FASST. After attending the FASST clinic, Mac was referred to a psychologist, pediatrician and speech therapist at the RCHGS, where he is still a patient today.
“I didn’t know what to expect but I went in with an open mind and found it really rewarding,” he said. “The nurse talked me through socially transitioning, mental health concerns, medications, and what other names and pronouns were possible options.”
Mac added that it was beneficial for his whole family, too.
“My parents appreciated the support too from the nurse as it put them at ease that they were doing and saying all the right things,” he said. “They had a lot of questions and the nurse reassured them, which allowed them to block out all the negativity and removed any doubts.”
“I’d be in a very different place without this support over the past four years,” he said. “I consider myself to be one of the lucky ones. I have friends who had very different experiences, parents who weren’t supportive and had to wait years to see a psychologist.”
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