Mental Health and the LGBTQ+ Communities
Members of the LGBTQ+ community are more vulnerable to mental health issues than heterosexual and cisgender individuals. They are more likely to experience anxiety, depression, and other mental illnesses, and to attempt suicide. Discrimination, rejection, trauma, and lack of access to healthcare are among the many reasons. Social support, reducing stigma, a positive community, and access to mental healthcare are essential for reversing this trend.
Good mental health is important for everyone, but some populations are more vulnerable to mental health issues and symptoms. If you or someone you care about is a member of one of these groups, it’s important to understand the scope of the problem, warning signs, and what you can do for support.
The LGBTQ+ community is one of these vulnerable groups. Watch out for your mental health and that of your loved ones in this population. People in the community are at risk for mental illness for several reasons, but prevention, education, social support, and professional treatment can help.
The LGBTQ+ Community
The LGBTQ+ community, which also goes by other names, is a diverse group of people with a range of gender identities and sexual orientations. Adding to this diversity is the fact that they come from all walks of life. They represent every socioeconomic status, ethnic background, race, religion, and more.
All of this makes it a strong, diverse community with many unique perspectives that offers support to a lot of individuals. Yet, despite this, many people face discrimination and hate, from acquaintances, the media, politicians, and even their own family members.
Facts About Mental Health Among LGBTQ+
Many people who identify with this community find strength and support in it, but the statistics show that this isn’t always enough. Members of the LGBTQ+ population are at greater risk for mental health issues.
- Lesbian, gay, or bisexual adults are two times as likely as heterosexual adults to have a mental illness.
- They are at an especially higher risk for anxiety disorders, depression, and substance use disorders.
- Transgender people are four times as likely as cisgender individuals to have a mental illness.
- Nearly half of the adult transgender population has thought about suicide as compared to 4% overall in the U.S.
- The risks are even more severe for teens. LGBTQ+ teens are six times more likely than their peers to have depression.
- LGBTQ+ teens are more than two times as likely to contemplate suicide and four times more likely to attempt suicide.
Why Are LGBTQ+ Individuals Vulnerable?
There are many reasons that people who identify as LGBTQ+ are at greater risk for mental health symptoms and struggle with mental illness at higher rates. The primary underlying reason is that they feel different and unaccepted for who they are. Because of this, they are often marginalized in society, in their local communities, at school or work, and within their families.
Coming out is a particularly stressful and fraught time, when an individual, often a young person, isn’t sure how people will react. The anticipation can cause significant anxiety and stress. If they come out in an unsupportive environment, the repercussions can be serious for their mental health.
Young people in the LGBTQ+ community experience a lot of rejection and discrimination. A survey from 2019 found that 86% reported being harassed or even assaulted at school. Adults aren’t immune to rejection either. Another survey found that 40% of LGBTQ+ adults were rejected by a friend or family member after coming out. This rejection, discrimination, and has consequences for mental health.
Trauma is a major source of mental illness for many people of all genders and orientations. LGBTQ+ individuals may be at a greater risk for experiencing trauma. Assaults, rejection, harassment, hate crimes, and other actions can be traumatic, leading to later mental health issues, including post-traumatic stress disorder.
LGBTQ+ individuals are at greater risk for other life experiences and health problems that contribute to mental health. For instance, LGBTQ+ youth are much more likely than their peers to experience homelessness. Adults and young people both are more likely to use drugs or alcohol to cope, which in turn can lead to an addiction and worsening mental health symptoms.
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Getting Professional Support
An additional reason that members of the LGBTQ+ community struggle more with mental health might be that they are less likely to get professional care. Statistics show that 10% report delaying treatment or care because of discrimination from healthcare workers. Among transgender individuals, this is higher, at 23%.
If you struggle with the idea of going to see a doctor or therapist because of your gender identity or sexual orientation, enlist a trusted friend or family member to help. Offer to be a support to a loved one as they seek professional care. Tackling it together can reduce the anxiety and stress of the situation.
Look for recommendations for an LGBTQ+ friendly professional. Some doctors and therapists advertise this. Many insurers now also list LGBTQ+ as a search parameter to help you find professionals with relevant competency and experience.
You can also ask friends and members of your local community to suggest someone they trust. If anything about the service a healthcare facility offers you makes you feel uncomfortable or unwelcome, you have every right to walk away and find help elsewhere. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about a doctor’s experience. All patients should advocate for their health and wellness.
The Benefits of Social Support
Professional support is a must for anyone struggling with mental illness, but there are other important ways to improve your mental health. Social support is a powerful tool for wellness and resilience and is worth building.
Everyone experiences mental health symptoms at certain times in their lives, especially anxiety and depression. Most people turn to their social circles for support and to cope. The power of social support is significant, but too often, members of the LGBTQ+ community lack adequate positive support.
Spend time with the members of your family and your friends who are positive and support you as you are. Avoid those who don’t if they negatively impact your mental health. If you have a loved one who is struggling, reach out. Make sure they know that you support and love them, no matter what. Sometimes, just saying this makes all the difference for someone who is feeling isolated and rejected.
It’s also important to reach out to and interact with the larger LGBTQ+ community. Groups like the National Alliance on Mental Health and Mental Health America provide resources to help you find your community, both online and locally. They also list resources for mental health services and suicide prevention.
Everyone should be allowed to live and thrive as who they truly are, but the reality is that stigma, discrimination, and even hate persist. If you or a loved one is LGBTQ+ and struggling, take steps to reach out to the community, to spend time with supportive friends, and to get professional mental healthcare.