Individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+ are at a significantly increased risk of mental health struggles. There are a number of reasons for this, which we will look at more closely in this article. Understanding the unique psychological stressors experienced by members of the LGBTQIA+ community will enable us to be more proactive in supporting this population.
Mental Health Statistics in the LGBTQIA+ Community
First, let’s review some statistics regarding mental health among individuals who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, or Asexual (LGBTQIA+). According to Mental Health America:
- LGBTQIA+ teenagers are 6 times more likely to be depressed compared to heterosexual and cis-gender peers.
- LGBTQIA+ adolescents are 4 times more likely to attempt suicide
- Transgender adults are up to 12 times more likely to contemplate suicide than the general population.
These statistics are alarming, especially when we consider that adolescents and teenagers are involved. It is clear that there is an urgent need for improved mental health services and availability within the LGBTQIA+ community.
Reasons for Poor Mental Health in LGBTQIA+ Individuals
The reasons for mental health issues in the LGBTQIA+ community can be the same as those in the general population. However, there are a few unique aspects associated with being in a sexual minority that pose an increased risk for certain mental health concerns:
Being in a minority subjects many individuals to unfair discrimination. Whether it is in the workplace, at the doctor’s office, or standing in line for coffee, members of a group of people who are underrepresented may feel continuously scrutinized for merely existing.
Acceptance is a base human need, but it is especially important to younger people. Adolescents and teens are already prone to risk-taking behaviors in order to feel accepted by their peers. If they feel their very identity is causing them to be shunned, they may be all the more likely to experiment with outlets such as self harm, drugs, or alcohol.
Heterosexual, cis-gendered individuals rarely have to hide their identities from certain family members. This is not the case with LGBTQIA+ individuals, who may spend their entire lives having to mask their true selves from even their closest family members. Family support is critical in seeking treatment for mental health concerns; and again, it is especially important with children and teens.
It is important to underscore that being LGBTQIA+ is not, itself, a mental health issue. But many LGBTQIA+ individuals may not seek psychological treatment for fear it will expose their minority status to their loved ones.
This is a concern especially among the trans community, where state governments are actively suppressing access to gender affirming care. The inability to seek appropriate therapies unique to trans individuals can certainly contribute to feelings of hopelessness, which may be in part why trans men, women, and non-binary individuals are at such an alarmingly increased risk of suicide.
Fear of Violence
According to the same Mental Health America study as referenced above, 57 percent of LGBTQIA+ members surveyed report having been non-sexually harassed or threatened in some way; 51 percent have been sexually harassed, and 51 percent have experienced physical violence.
In other words, more than half of the LGBTQIA+ community has experienced some form of verbal or physical violence. Terrifying experiences such as these are known to cause PTSD, while continued threat of repeated incidents may trigger episodes.
Furthermore, a 2020 review found that emotional support prior to a traumatic event can significantly reduce the likelihood and severity of PTSD and other mental health conditions. We have already established that this emotional support is often lacking for LGBTQIA+ individuals, putting them at increased risk for adverse mental health outcomes following trauma.
How to Support the LGBTQIA+ Community
Aside from actively contributing monetary support to businesses and organizations that support the LGBTQIA+ community, there are simple steps non-LGBTQIA+ individuals can take to be an ally:
- Vote against anti-trans and anti LGB legislation
- Offer your pronouns and ask those of new people you meet (and be sure to use them); you can also put your pronouns in your email signature at work and on your social media profiles to show support
- Do not ask a trans individual what their birth name is or any details regarding their transition
- Support your local LGBTQIA+ community by attending Pride festivals and wearing supportive clothing or accessories. Fly a pride flag outside your door during Pride Month (or better yet, all year).
- When in doubt, just be kind. Communicate with words of love and encouragement and offer unconditional support during mental health struggles.
Mental Health Services in Destin, Florida
At the Crane Center in Destin, Florida, we treat each and every patient like a member of our family. We pride ourselves on customized and compassionate care that produces lasting results. If you are someone you know is struggling with a mental health issue, please call our office or go online to schedule an appointment.