As we know well at Guild, mental health is essential to overall well-being, affecting every aspect of our lives. However, numerous marginalized communities, including the LGBTQ+ community, face unique challenges and disparities in mental health. While being a part of the LGBTQ+ community is in no way a mental health issue in and of itself, the unique challenges the community faces can exacerbate mental health concerns.
Understanding Mental Health Disparities
The LGBTQ+ community encompasses a diverse range of sexual orientations, gender identities, and expressions. With significant advancements—and setbacks—in LGBTQ+ rights and acceptance in recent years, mental health disparities persist within the community. Multiple factors contribute to these disparities, including societal stigma, discrimination, and a lack of understanding and support.
These statistics from Mental Health America on the prevalence of mental health conditions and concerns within the LGBTQ+ community help illustrate the disparities:
- LGBTQ+ teens are six times more likely to experience symptoms of depression than non-LGBTQ+ identifying teens.
- LGBTQ+ youth are more than twice as likely to feel suicidal and over four times as likely to attempt suicide compared to heterosexual youth.
- Forty-eight percent of transgender adults report that they have considered suicide in the last year, compared to 4 percent of the overall US population.
Not only do LGBTQ+ people suffer higher rates of mental health challenges, but the community is also overrepresented in our Minnesota homeless shelters. For more in-depth information about the LBGTQ+ community and homelessness, please read more here.
The Local Realities
The 2021 Rainbow Health report on LGBTQ+ experiences in Minnesota unveiled “55% of all LGBTQ+ respondents were experiencing moderate mental distress and 25% were experiencing severe mental distress at the time of the survey,” which means that LGBTQ+ people continue to experience mental distress at higher rates than their counterparts.
The same report also highlights discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, with 77% of respondents experiencing discriminatory behavior in the past year and 35% of respondents having been physically threatened or attacked for being LGBTQ+ in their lifetime.
Stigma and Discrimination
Stigma and discrimination play a detrimental role in the mental health of LGBTQ+ individuals. 71% of LGBTQ+ youth have faced discrimination. Many face societal prejudices, including homophobia, biphobia, and transphobia, which can lead to internalized shame, fear, and isolation. This hostile environment often exacerbates mental health conditions such as depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.
Minority stress refers to the unique stressors experienced by marginalized communities due to their minority status. These stressors contribute to higher rates of mental health issues and suicidality compared to their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts. LGBTQ+ individuals face higher rates of bullying, harassment, and violence in their personal lives and institutional settings.
Lack of Accessible Healthcare
The LGBTQ+ community also encounters significant barriers to accessing competent and affirming healthcare services. Many healthcare providers lack knowledge about LGBTQ+ identities and issues, leading to inadequate and uninformed care. This lack of understanding can discourage individuals from seeking help and contribute to mental health disparities.
Education and Awareness
Raising awareness about LGBTQ+ mental health disparities is crucial. Education for mental health professionals, educators, and the general public can help challenge stereotypes, reduce stigma, and promote inclusivity. Increasing the visibility of positive LGBTQ+ role models and stories can also provide hope and support to those struggling with mental health.
Three Things You Can Do To Help This Month
- Advocate for LGBTQ+ Mental Health Awareness:
One of the most impactful ways to support the LGBTQ+ community during Pride Month is by advocating for LGBTQ+ mental health awareness. You can start by educating yourself about the unique challenges and disparities faced by LGBTQ+ individuals in terms of mental health. Share this knowledge with your friends, family, and social circles to spread awareness and combat stigma. Use your voice to promote inclusivity, acceptance, and equal access to mental healthcare for all.
- Promote LGBTQ+ Affirming Mental Healthcare Practices:
Advocate for LGBTQ+ affirming practices in mental healthcare settings. Encourage healthcare providers to undergo training on LGBTQ+ cultural competency and inclusivity. You can start conversations with healthcare professionals in your community or reach out to local healthcare organizations to inquire about their LGBTQ+ policies and practices. Raising awareness and encouraging change can help ensure that LGBTQ+ individuals receive competent and affirming care when seeking mental health support.
- Be an Effective Ally:
Being an ally means actively supporting and advocating for the LGBTQ+ community. It involves creating safe and inclusive spaces where LGBTQ+ individuals feel accepted, respected, and supported. Speak up against discrimination, respect people’s gender identities by using their preferred pronouns, amplify LGBTQ+ voices, and show up to support the community when calls for allies are made.
Have a happy and healthy pride month!