Mental Health and the LGBTQ+ Community
While belonging to the LGBTQ+ community can be a source of strength, it also brings with it unique challenges.
The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer (LGBTQ+) community represents a diverse range of identities and expressions of gender and sexual orientation. It is really important to know that identifying as LGBTQ+ doesn’t automatically mean someone will have mental health issues. However, it may mean they’re at higher risk of experiencing mental health conditions, especially depression and anxiety disorders as a result of misunderstanding or lack of acceptance from communities, peers or family members.
A recent study by Stonewall found that over the span of a year:
- 50% of LGBTQ+ people experienced depression, and 3 in 5 had experienced anxiety.
- 1 in 8 LGBTQ+ between the ages had attempted suicide.
- Almost half of trans people had thought about taking their life.
In another recent study, this time by nonprofit organization the Trevor Project, 40% of young LGBTQ+ people have considered suicide in the last year, and that number rises to more than half for trans and nonbinary youths.
Other stunning numbers from the project include:
- 48% of LGBTQ+ youth engaged in self-harm in the past 12 months, including over 60% of transgender and nonbinary youths.
- 68% of LGBTQ+ youth reported symptoms of generalized anxiety disorder, including more than 3 in 4 transgender and nonbinary youths.
- 1 in 3 LGBTQ+ youth reported that they had been physically threatened or harmed in their lifetime because of their LGBTQ+ identity.
Because of stigma and discrimination, the LGBTQ+ community is more likely to struggle with their mental health. It is important to find social support and acceptance for anyone suffering from depression or anxiety or other struggles.
Supporting the LGBTQ+ Community
For many in the LGBTQ+ community, coming out can be a difficult or even traumatic experience.
Among the risk factors are:
- Rejection from family and close friends.
- Trauma from many forms of discrimination, or worse, hate crimes.
- Substance abuse as a coping mechanism.
Positive human connection is critical when it comes to boosting your mood. Surround yourself with people who love you, believe in you, cheer for you, hear you, and listen to you. As we celebrate Pride month in June, many come together to show their support for the LGBTQ+ community. But it's important to be an ally every day.
If you identify as part of the LGBTQ+ Community or know someone who does, there are several ways to look after your (or their) mental health.
1. Talk about your feelings
Sharing your fears and feelings is not a sign of weakness. It’s actually part of taking charge of your wellbeing and dealing with a problem you’ve been carrying around. Just being listened to can help you feel supported and less alone. It may feel awkward at first, it’s not always easy to describe what you are feeling. But give it time and practice putting into words what you feel.
2. Keep your body active
Regular exercise can boost self-esteem, help you concentrate, and even sleep better. Many experts also believe that exercise releases happy hormones in your brain called endorphins that make you feel good. You don’t have to morph into an athlete - pick a physical activity you enjoy and try doing it for at least 30 minutes a day. Take a walk in the park, do some gardening, or play with your pet to keep active.
3. Eat and Drink Well
There are strong links between what we eat and how we feel. Just like any other organ in your body, your brain needs a mix of the right nutrients to stay healthy and function well. A diet that is good for the body is good for your mental health. Drink lots of water, limit your sugar and caffeine intake, and avoid too much alcohol.
4. Keep in Touch
Strong family ties and supportive friends can help you deal with the stresses of life. They can make you feel supported, grounded, and at the same time offer perspective from whatever is troubling you.
5. Take a Break
Everyone needs a change in pace and scenery once in a while. A few minutes of ‘me-time’ can be enough to de-stress you. Take a deep breath and listen to your body. Do you need to relax? Do you need to get up and feel the sunshine? If you’re tired, get some good sleep. Sometimes, the world can wait.6. Ask for HelpWhen things get overwhelming, ask for help. Join a support group to help you make changes in your life. Find a counselor to help you deal with feelings. Talk to friends and family. Or, find a specialist when you feel like you can’t cope.
How do I find LGBTQ+ friendly therapy?
It is not safe to assume that all therapists will be equipped to handle or sympathetic to LGBTQ+ issues. This lack of training and awareness may cause care providers to misdiagnose or underestimate the extent of emerging disorders in the LGBTQ+ population. Access to mental health specialists and experts is a critical first step in treating people with mental health issues.
The LGBTQ+ community benefits from outstanding mental health research in the areas of depression and suicide, as well as from LGBTQ+ affirmative health care initiatives provided at Balance Treatment Center.
Balance Treatment Center offers intensive outpatient programs for all ages for those struggling with mental health issues or co-occurring disorders. Our mental health locations include Calabasas, San Luis Obispo, Santa Maria, and Visalia.
Founder and Medical Director Ronald D. Sager, M.D. has created programs using his extensive psychoanalytic background to provide integrated care for complex issues by taking an in-depth and evidence-based approach to persistent struggles.
We are on a mission to improve the lives of individuals, their families, and members of their larger communities by addressing the issues that are preventing growth.
Learn more about our mental health treatment programs, or call us anytime: 855-414-8100