Original Research

Demographic and mental health profile of youth in a gender service: An African case series

Simon D. Pickstone-Taylor, Eugene L. Davids, Graham N. de Bever, Petrus J. de Vries
South African Journal of Psychiatry | Vol 30 | a2160 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/sajpsychiatry.v30i0.2160 | © 2024 Simon D. Pickstone-Taylor, Eugene L. Davids, Graham N. de Bever, Petrus J. de Vries | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 16 August 2023 | Published: 17 April 2024

About the author(s)

Simon D. Pickstone-Taylor, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Eugene L. Davids, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Graham N. de Bever, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Petrus J. de Vries, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Health Sciences, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa

Abstract

Background: Despite a massive global increase in research on gender-diverse youth, there have been no studies in Africa on gender-diverse children and adolescents presenting to health services.

Aim: This study aimed to present the first African findings of the demographic and mental health profile of youth who have presented at a gender service in South Africa.

Setting: A specialist mental health outpatient service, consisting of psychiatry, psychology and nursing input, for gender-diverse child and adolescent patients in the Western Cape.

Methods: All consenting youth seen at a gender service, consisting of psychiatry, psychology and nursing input, in state and by the same clinician in private practice between January 2012 and May 2019 were participants of a retrospective, sequential case series study. Data of interest, including gender identity and sexuality, mental health history and social information, were extracted from the psychiatry files of participants.

Results: Thirty-nine participants were part of the registry and qualified for the study: 72% self-identified as white, 15% as coloured and 13% as black African. The rate of co-occurring psychopathology was high (64%) and included high rates of autism, particularly in trans males (26%), suicidal ideation in 31% and a history of suicide attempt(s) in 10%.

Conclusions: This first study describing gender-diverse youth seeking support relating to their gender identity in Africa showed they had remarkable similarities to those studied internationally.

Contribution: Establishing that transgender youth of all major racial groups in the province with similar demographic profiles to other parts of the world are presenting to services in South Africa and in need of mental health support and interventions.


Keywords

children and adolescents; mental health; transgender; gender identity; gender nonconforming; gender-affirming; South Africa

Sustainable Development Goal

Goal 3: Good health and well-being

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