GSA Advocacy Predicts Reduced Depression Disparities Between LGBQ+ and Heterosexual Youth in Schools

V. Paul Poteat, Hirokazu Yoshikawa, Sarah B. Rosenbach, S. Henry Sherwood, Emily K. Finch, Jerel P. Calzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objective: Depression disparities between heterosexual youth and lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and other non-heterosexual (LGBQ+) youth are robust and linked to discrimination in schools. Advocacy by school-based Gender-Sexuality Alliances (GSAs) to raise awareness of LGBQ+ issues and to counteract discrimination may reduce these disparities within schools, yet has not been investigated schoolwide. We considered whether GSA advocacy over the school year moderated sexual orientation differences in depressive symptoms at the school year’s end for students in the general school population (i.e., students who were not members of the GSA). Method: Participants were 1,362 students (Mage = 15.68; 89% heterosexual; 52.6% female; 72.2% White) in 23 Massachusetts secondary schools with GSAs. Participants reported depressive symptoms at the beginning and end of the school year. Separately, GSA members and advisors reported their GSA’s advocacy activities during the school year and other GSA characteristics. Results: LGBQ+ youth reported higher depressive symptoms than heterosexual youth at the school year’s beginning. However, after adjusting for initial depressive symptoms and multiple covariates, sexual orientation was a weaker predictor of depressive symptoms at the school year’s end for youth in schools whose GSAs engaged in more advocacy. Depression disparities were significant in schools whose GSAs reported lower advocacy, but were statistically non-significant in schools whose GSAs reported higher advocacy. Conclusion: Advocacy could be a means by which GSAs achieve school-wide impacts, benefiting LGBQ+ youth who are not GSA members. GSAs may therefore be a key resource for addressing the mental health needs of LGBQ+ youth.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalJournal of Clinical Child and Adolescent Psychology
StateAccepted/In press - 2023

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Developmental and Educational Psychology
  • Clinical Psychology


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