LGBTQ Mental Health
Updated: Dec 2, 2021
Happy Pride month! In honor of June being pride month, this post is about mental health and being LGBTQ. Everyone deals with mental health, just like physical health, although there may be certain factors that make it more likely a person will struggle with their mental health, or have a mental illness. Being LGBTQ+ is one of them.
To start off, here are some statistics. (Boring, I know, but they really do make you think). Statistics according to the American psychiatric organization.
Almost 8% of the US population identifies as something other than cisgender heterosexual, and 11% have felt sexual attraction to someone of the same sex.
People who identify as LGBTQ+ are 2x more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health disorder, and 2.5x more likely to have anxiety, depression, or substance abuse.
2.3% of heterosexual people have considered attempting suicide, whereas the percentage of transgender individuals who have considered it is 30.8%
According to the Trevor Project, 66% of LGBTQ+ youth had someone try to persuade them to change their sexuality or gender.
How might someone struggling present?
Someone struggling with their mental health may show it in different ways, or not at all.
-skipping work or school
-sleeping too much or too little
-changes in attitude or behavior
Additionally, someone may mention feelings of anxiety or depression. While these are common, LGBTQ+ individuals have an increased risk for eating disorders, and other mental illnesses as well.
*It is important to note that someone does not have to have a mental illness to struggle with their mental health*
Why is this the case?
There are many reasons why this might happen. LGBTQ+ youth experience the same stressors and challenges as their hetero and cis peers, but with some added stress due to their gender identity or sexual orientation;
They are often faced with discrimination and prejudice at home, at school, or in public. Families may not support their identity and treat an individual differently or worse based on how they identify. This can happen at school as well. Sometimes LGBTQ+ are abused or harassed due to their sexual identity, or are bullied at school due to their sexual orientation.
Substance abuse, which is more prevalent in the LGBTQ+ community, can also contribute to having challenges with mental health.
Trauma and homelessness are other contributing factors.
LGBTQ+ individuals may feel isolated or alone due to being in a minority group.
Let’s talk about coming out for a second. If you don’t know, “coming out” is a term used to describe when someone who identifies as LGBTQ+ tells others about their gender or sexual orientation. On the other side, when someone has not informed others of this, they are considered “in the closet” or “closeted”. Many people do not reveal this information about themselves right away, even to the people they are closest two. It can be challenging however, to live without people knowing this, and can feel like keeping a big secret, especially when one’s sexual identity impacts how they want to present themselves. This can have a detrimental effect on one’s mental health. Sometimes when one does come out, the people they told are not supportive, and this can have a detrimental effect as well.
Self care is something that individuals participate in, whether intentionally or not, and it can have a large impact on mental health. It involves people doing things to promote their health, including nutrition, hygiene, and lifestyle. Self care can also be beneficial to managing stress. Some examples of self care include getting enough sleep/taking a nap, yoga, eating healthy, taking a walk, and drinking a lot of water. It also includes doing things that you love to do, and taking time for yourself.
The stigma around mental illness as well as challenges faced by LGBTQ+ individuals can prevent or dissuade one from getting help. LGBTQ+ individuals may even face discrimination from health providers which adds to this challenge. If you or someone you know is struggling, talk to a trusted adult. They can help you decide what to do. If it is not safe to do so, or there is nobody around, talk to someone else you trust, or use one of the many online resources.
Remember that it’s okay to have a bad mental health day or to suffer from a mental illness. You are not alone, and things will get better.
The Trevor Project:
This is a national organization that provides crisis prevention and suicide intervention services aimed at LGBTQ+ youth and adolescents. Visit https://www.thetrevorproject.org/ to learn more about their programs and to learn more about their lifelines, including a text option.
Some Assembly Required by Arin Andrews is a great book about a transgender male, and his experience through life, told through anecdotes.