Supporting mental health in the lgbtq+ community Supporting mental health in the lgbtq+ community

The article is developed in partnership with BetterHelp.

The LGBTQ+ community – which stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and other gender minorities – is made up of several kinds of people from various backgrounds. However, one thing that is common among LGBTQ+ are they have a higher risk of dealing with mental health challenges compared to heterosexual and cisgender people.

Being a part of the LGBTQ+ community can sometimes mean facing unique difficulties, especially about mental health.

Let’s take a closer look.

Understanding Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

Everyone has a sexual orientation and gender identity. Your sexual orientation involves who you’re attracted to, whether romantically or physically. Gender identity is how you feel inside about being male, female, both, or neither. And that could be different from your biological sex. LGBTQ+ is an umbrella term for people whose sexual orientation or gender identity is different from what is normal.

So, it’s important to know that being LGBTQ+ is not a mental health condition or disorder.

The Numbers Speak

Even though being LGBTQ+ isn’t a mental illness, many LGBTQ+ people often face mental health situations. Bisexual and transgender mental health are of main concern – individuals in these groups might face higher rates of mental health issues. And among the LGBTQ+ population, younger people tend to experience more of such situations.

Following the recent reports, sexual minority individuals, such as those who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual, are more likely to face a mental health condition in the recent few years. They also are more likely to deal with serious thoughts of suicide or to have attempted it. Among LGBTQ+ youth, more than 40 percent have notably considered attempting suicide within the past year, with transgender, nonbinary and/or people of color reporting even higher rates.

Here are some extra and sobering statistics about the mental health of LGBTQ+ individuals:

  • LGBTQ+ teens are six times more likely to deal with the symptoms of depression than their non-LGBTQ+ peers.
  • LGBTQ+ youth are more than twice as likely to experience suicide and over four times as likely to attempt so compared to heterosexual youth.
  • Nearly half of transgender adults have considered suicide in the last year, compared to only 4 percent of the overall U.S. population.

The Impact of Societal Issues

LGBTQ+ people often go through discrimination, fear, as well as violence, because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This discrimination can result in mental health challenges like depression and anxiety, including feelings of worthlessness. Moreover, many LGBTQ+ individuals belong to other marginalized communities, which can relate to their experiences and make it challenging to seek genuine support.

Specific Risks to LGBTQIA+ Community Members

Below are some of the common mental health risks that the LGBTQ+ community may face:

Negative stereotypes and rejection: Negative stereotypes about being LGBTQ+ make most people uncomfortable with being themselves. When they do come out, they have to deal with the rejection from their connection, which could result in loneliness.

Intersectionality: LGBTQ+ people come from all walks of life. But being LGBTQ+ and other minority groups could make things even harder. For example, a Black transgender woman has to deal with racism, sexism, and transphobia, this could hurt her mental health deeper.

Coming out: Coming out, or telling people you’re LGBTQ+, can be a big step. It can help you be yourself, but this also results in issues such as rejection or discrimination. Even though society is getting comfortable with accepting LGBTQ+ people, there are still laws and regulations and some challenges for them.

Barriers to Care and Treatment

In addition to increased risk, LGBTQ+ individuals also may face increased challenges in getting the help they require. Here are a few reasons why:

Medical mistrust: Many LGBTQ+ people face trouble going to the doctor because they think of being judged or mistreated. Even basic medical care often feels so challenging for them. More than half of LGBTQ+ people have experienced denial of care, harsh reactions, or blame because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. Fear of discrimination makes some hide their identity or avoid looking for care altogether.

Lack of adequate mental health care: Seeking good mental health care can be a challenge for LGBTQ+ individuals. Sometimes, even therapists can’t relate to their needs or don’t know how to help them.

While many LGBTQ+ individuals look for mental health services at higher rates than heterosexual people, the challenges are still there. Stigma, lack of cultural sensitivity, and reluctance when facing sexuality all can impact the effectiveness of mental health care.

The Power of Support

Well, there’s hope though. A supportive and sound environment can play a huge role here. LGBTQ+ individuals who have access to affirming homes, schools, communities, and online spaces have reported lower rates of attempting suicide. Affirming gender identity among transgender and nonbinary individuals is also connected with lower rates of attempting suicide.

How You Can Help

So, what can you do to support the mental health of LGBTQ+ individuals in your life? Here are some tips:

  1. Educate yourself: You should get to know more about LGBTQ+ identities, experiences, and challenges. Trying to understand these issues can help you support well.
  2. Listen and communicate: Be open and honest while listening to the experiences, feelings, and challenges of LGBTQ+ individuals. Let them know that you are around to provide the support.
  3. Respect their identity: This is important to respect the identity of LGBTQ+ individuals and use their selective gender pronouns. Understanding their identity can make a significant change in their mental well-being. Mainly, therapists and doctors should make sure their practices are respectful of LGBTQIA+ identities.
  4. Create a safe environment: Try to create an environment of acceptance, love, and support within your family or social circle. Stand up against discrimination and help educate others. Families and friends of LGBTQIA+ individuals can make a huge difference in supporting them without judgment. 
  5. Provide access to resources: Connect LGBTQ+ individuals with helpful networks, social groups, or mentors within the community. If you find the signs of distress, try to help and support them in getting the required help and resources.
  6. Reduce stigma: Stigma, or judging people because of who they are, is a challenging issue. We can all help by talking about the unfair treatment and supporting LGBTQ+ rights. Schools should support LGBTQIA+ students by providing comfortable spaces and support groups. Teachers can also show their allies by joining LGBTQIA+ organizations.
  7. Trauma-informed care: Because many LGBTQ+ people have faced trauma, like bullying or rejection, they require unique care that relates to what they have been through.
  8. Identity-affirming care: LGBTQ+ people require health care that values who they are. Doctors and therapists must always treat them based on their unique identity.

Supporting LGBTQ+ Children and Youth

For parents and caregivers of LGBTQ+ children and youth, here are some additional suggestions:

  1. Follow their lead: Let your child make the move when it comes to telling other family members about their LGBTQ+ identity. You can ask how you can provide support for them.
  2. Connect them with role models: Help your child connect with LGBTQ+ adult role models who can provide guidance and support.
  3. Stay positive: Believe that your child deserves a happy life as an LGBTQ+ individual and keep up a positive attitude around them.
  4. Stand up against discrimination: Be mindful of your child and stand up against mistreatment or discrimination they may face because of their LGBTQ+ identity or gender expression.
  5. ·Show your support: Most importantly, be sure your child knows that your family is there to support them anytime.

Helping in coping with the mental health of the LGBTQ+ community is important. Understanding, acceptance, and access to affirming healthcare are important steps. By challenging the stereotypes, promoting inclusivity, and giving support, we can create a safe and healthy environment for all members of the LGBTQ+ community.

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