Although being LGBTQ+ is not a mental illness, many members of the community experience mental health struggles. According to a recent study, 61% of LGBTQ+ individuals experience depression, 45% have PTSD, and 36% have an anxiety disorder. In addition, a whopping 40% of transgender individuals have attempted suicide in their lifetime. Below are reasons why and how to offer support:
Reasons for Mental Health Challenges Within the LGBTQ+ Community
While most LGBTQ+ individuals thrive in the face of adversity, they are also at particular risk for experiencing shame, fear, discrimination, and traumatic events. In addition, the community is known to struggle after disclosing themselves to family, friends, and society at large, and this can lead to depression, anxiety, and other challenges. The younger members are at the greatest risk due to their fragile age and the lack of self-confidence. In fact, LGBTQ+ youth are more than twice as likely to feel suicidal and over four times as likely to attempt suicide compared to heterosexual youth.
Bullying, harassment, and other discrimination from non-accepting members of society is a widespread concern. According to a report released by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network:
- At least 55% of the youth belonging from the LGBTQ+ community feel unsafe at school because of their sexual orientation
- Almost 37% of the school-going youth feel unsafe because of their gender identity
- Verbal harassment was experienced by at least 74% of the LGBTQ+ community
- 17% have been physically harassed
- 11% have been punched, kicked, or injured by a weapon due to their gender expression
Research suggests that LGBTQ+ individuals face health disparities linked to societal stigma, discrimination, and denial of their civil and human rights. Discrimination against LGBTQ+ persons is associated with high rates of psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, and suicide. This also spills into the workplace, where 59% of LGBTQ+ people feel that they have fewer employment opportunities and 50% believe they are paid less than non-LGBTQ+ people.
Discrimination for any reason, whether it is race, language, culture, gender identity, or sexual orientation, can take a negative toll on one’s health and may even lead to suicidal thoughts.
Whether it’s at school, work, or in public, bullying is something the majority of the LGBTQ+ community endures at some point. The four most prevalent types of bullying are:
- Verbal Bullying
- Relational Bullying
- Physical Bullying
Incidences of bullying are directly related to a greater risk of depression amongst these individuals, so it’s important to take notice and stern action against the bullying you see taking place.
The Role of Health Care Professionals
In a survey of LGBTQ+ people, more than half of all respondents reported that they have faced cases of providers denying care, using harsh language, or blaming the patient’s sexual orientation or gender identity as the cause for an illness. Fear of discrimination may lead some people to conceal their sexual orientation or gender identity from providers or avoid seeking care altogether.
In addition, health professionals often fail to ask the patients about their sexual orientation or gender preference, and this can effect LGBTQ+ access to health care. Educating LGBTQ+ patients and making them comfortable enough to be completely transparent with a provider will eliminate many health barriers these individuals might face.
Support Leads to Improvements
Support from the right people is important to the mental health of the members of the LGBTQ+ community, especially those who have just disclosed their sexual orientation or expressed their desire for new gender identification. In a study conducted by Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services, 482 members of the LGBTQ+ community we monitored and interviewed about their support system for a year after disclosing their sexual orientation/gender. The results showed significant improvement across all variables for those that had a network in place and somewhere to feel heard.
If you or a loved one is struggling with LGBTQ+ challenges, we’re here to help. A Relief Mental Health provider can help navigate challenges and help you live your best life. Call us at 630-974-6602 or via the form below to learn more about how we can offer support.
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