With Pride Month well into its second week, much of the LGBTQ community is either in celebration or continuing fights on other fronts. While this month is meant to acknowledge the successes of the community, it’s also a great time to address the difficulties that remain present. One of the biggest and most undisclosed being mental illness.
While mental health conditions can come in all shapes and sizes within the LGBTQ community, there are some statistics that remain consitant:
- LGBTQ youth is 4 times more likely to commit suicide than those of heterosexual preference.
- Half of people who identify as transgender report feeling symptoms of depression and anxiety. ²
- 86% of Stonewall UK’s staff – a group of individuals dedicated to helping the community – admitted to struggling with mental health conditions first-hand.
Understandably, mental illness is something the majority of people experience at one point or another in their lives. The purpose of this article isn’t to discredit other communities – rather, to understand why mental health conditions are so prominent within the LGBTQ community.
Throughout this article, we’re not only going to take a deeper dive into this matter, but we’ll also be providing resources for individuals struggling. At the end, we invite you to ask further questions.
Why Does LGBTQ Struggle with Mental Health?
All our life experiences will play a major role in our thought process. With that said, it’s likely your experiences will differ greatly from another’s and, in turn, so will be your struggles with mental health. Still, there remains some similar experiences among members of the LGBTQ community that we’d like to discuss.
To begin, there’s the obvious – it’s likely not everyone agrees with your sexual orientation or gender identity. While this holds the potential to bring up conflict, it’s much more likely for someone in this position to hide their emotions. Such acts will inevitably lead to isolation and loneliness. ¹
These are two key factors that can lead to a number of different mental health conditions, including:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)
- Substance abuse disorder
- Suicidal ideation
To take things further, hiding in fear of your orientation and/or identity can lead to negative feelings for these aspects of your life. Shame and guilt are another prominent symptom with a number of mental health conditions. ²
Finally, due to general social standards, people of the LGBTQ community are prone to stigmatization, discrimination, and/or violence. Such conflict often leads to tendencies that can be reflected in the way an individual thinks.
For example, a person may experience childhood abuse for “coming out” at a young age. Such retaliation will lead that individual to live in fear of what other’s think of them. One coping aspect for this fear is self-isolation which can lead to the mental illnesses we’ve mentioned above.
While these aren’t exclusively the reasons members of the LGBTQ community struggle with mental illness, these play a major factor in thought processes and even physical health.
So, What Can You Do?
Anyone who knows a member of the LGBTQ community has many options to help. However, the most important without a doubt is support. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), gay men with a positive social support are more likely to experience higher self-esteem, a more positive outlook on life along with their identity, and better mental health.
Support can come in a number of ways – from simply offering a helping hand when necessary to promoting to others around you the vulnerability LGBTQ member have with mental health.
If you’re an individual within the LGBTQ community, we’d first suggest seeking professional medical treatment if you find your mental health condition is throwing your life completely off balance. We understand this may appear difficult at times, but we also guarantee that with enough optimism, you will find a facility and/or medical professional that’s right for you.
The reason professional medical treatment can be so effective is because it helps you identify where thought/behavior patterns and how to overcome their negative aspects. While this is mostly done through psychotherapies, you will also receive medication to aid you through the process.
It’s important to note that many pharmaceutical medications are highly addictive and shouldn’t be taken lightly. Not to mention the fact that LGBTQ members are 3 times more likely to develop a substance abuse disorder. With this said, we do suggest seeking out natural alternatives – such as cannabidiol (CBD) – in order to promote overall well-being.
We also understand that one way many are trying to curb mental illness within the LGBTQ community is to fight against stigmatization. While we promote these efforts, it’s vital to understand that there’s a lot more that can be done within you than outside you.
What we mean by this you have a much better chance of overcoming a mental health condition through your own efforts. While society may continue to demote those within your community, it cannot take away the strength we each have within us.
Still have questions concerning mental illness within the LGBTQ community?
We invite you to ask them in the comment’s section below. If you have any further insight to give – whether personal or professional – we’d also love to hear from you.
¹ The Gerontologist (Oxford University Press): Living Arrangement and Loneliness Among Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Older Adults
² Journal of homosexuality (HHS Public Access): Exploring shame, guilt, and risky substance use among sexual minority men and women