SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) – A recent study lists South Dakota as having the highest rate of depression among the state’s LGBTQ+ community.

The Help Advisor study says nearly 90% of those who identify as LGBTQ+ report feeling depressed at least once per week. Governor Kristi Noem was asked about this statistic during Thursday’s news conference in Pierre.

“I don’t know. That makes me sad and we should figure it out,” Noem said.

According to the Trevor Project, earlier this month, the governor signed the first anti-transgender bill into law for 2022.

Amy Rambow and her son Alex. Photo courtesy of Rambow.

The LGBTQ+ community is close to Amy Rambow’s heart. As a mother of a transgender child and leader of Watertown Love, she’s used to advocating for equal rights.

“Every year that we prepare for legislative session and we know that it’s coming,” Rambow said. “So when you have that expectation of a new year, you know that every year it’s going to be speaking out, it’s going to be fighting, it’s going to be going, you know, and testifying.”

With legislation that could impact the trans community, year after year in South Dakota, she’s not surprised by the study’s results.

“I also see, you know, my child Alex recoil and pull back because they know this is coming and I always want them to know exactly what’s going on, what the bills are, what it would mean for them,” Rambow said.

Kimberly Keiser, a counselor and certified sex therapist in Sioux Falls, isn’t surprised either.

I read some of the legislation and I’m like, what is the basis for this?

Kimberly Keiser

“They see these things that are written that are false and they will have depressive episodes, they’ll have triggering,” Keiser said. “If they have a history of PTSD or trauma around their gender identity or sexual orientation because they were bullied or traumatized in some way.”

Keiser says depression can stem from experiencing things like misinformation, religious shame or micro aggressions.

“Probably the biggest culprit is just the general lack of sex education and sex positive education we have.

Kimberly Keiser

“The first thing is that you have to build your own family and your own community,” Keiser said. “If you’re fortunate enough to have a family that supports you, it’s like you’re miles ahead already. If you don’t have that kind of family, it’s not hopeless,” Keiser said.

She says it’s important to find support in advocacy groups or professional counseling.

The Help Advisor study also showed that just under 50 percent of the state’s LGBTQ+ community has reported a severe level of depression.

Advocacy groups and resources for LGBTQ+ South Dakotans:

Support hotlines:

  • The Helpline Center: 211
  • The Trevor Project: 1-866-488-7386
  • Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860
  • National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255