person holding pride flag

Why do People in the LGBTQ Community Experience Higher Rates of Mental Illness?

Jan 12, 2021

It’s a known fact that members of the LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer) community suffer from mental illnesses at a higher rate than their straight and cisgender counterparts. While mental illness can be caused by many things, we know that trauma, discrimination, and stigma are risk factors for mental health problems. Unfortunately, individuals in the LGBTQ community can experience discrimination from their families, friends, and communities. 

Individuals with different identities within the LGBTQ community have different experiences with mental illness. For example, LGBQ adults are twice as likely to have a mental illness than straight adults, while transgender adults are four times more likely to have a mental illness than cisgender adults (people whose gender corresponds to their gender assigned at birth). 

LGTBQ youth are six times more likely to experience depression and four times more likely to attempt suicide than their straight and/or cisgender peers. A variety of factors can contribute to mental health complications of LGBTQ youth and adults, including rejection, trauma, discrimination, and difficulty getting mental health treatment.

Lack of Social Acceptance

Humans are social beings. We want to feel accepted and supported by the people that surround us. When we feel rejected by the people around us, it can affect our mood.

Unfortunately, many LGBTQ individuals struggle with finding support from the people around them. 40% of LGBTQ adults have experienced rejection from someone they care about. Rejection from friends, family, and one’s community can contribute to mental health issues. In youth, rejection is tied to a higher risk of suicide.

Trauma and Discrimination

Experiencing discrimination can take a toll on mental health. 71% of LGBTQ youth have experienced discrimination because of their identity. Over half of LGBTQ adults report that they or someone they know has been the victim of harassment or violence due to their identity. Studies show that transgender people who experience discrimination or hate are more likely to have mental health issues.

Traumatic experiences can also affect mental health. The LGBTQ community is at a higher risk for hate crimes. Because of that, they can experience higher rates of Post Traumatic-Stress Disorder (PTSD).

Concerns With Health Care

We know that getting mental health care is important for recovery. But it’s not always easy to get. 54% of LGBTQ youth who want mental health care don’t receive it. LGBTQ youth of color often have an even harder time getting mental health care due to systemic racism.

Cost is a common problem. Over half of LGBTQ youth who were unable to get mental health care reported that they couldn’t afford it.

Discrimination in healthcare can dissuade or prevent individuals from getting treatment. More than half of LGBTQ individuals report experiencing discrimination when trying to receive health care. Fear of discrimination in mental health care is a top reason LGBTQ youth don’t try to access mental health care.

For youth, family issues can play a part in lack of health care. Youth who don’t feel comfortable discussing their identity with their family may have a harder time getting mental health treatment. Over a third of LGBTQ youth who didn’t receive mental health care but wanted it report that they didn’t want to get the parental permission they needed to get treatment. 

How Do We Fix it?

It’s important that mental health professionals create an environment where clients of all backgrounds are welcome. Mental health professionals need to have an understanding of the ways LGBTQ people are mistreated in society, and how that can contribute or lead to mental health problems.

Ending stigma and discrimination is crucial. It’s also important to be supportive of LGBTQ people in your life. Studies show that LGBTQ youth with supportive families have better mental health than those without. In fact, transgender children with supportive families have similar rates of mental health to their cisgender peers.

Not sure how to support someone in your life who identifies as LGBTQIA+? Here’s a great article. 

How to Get Help

For LGBTQ individuals, finding a mental health provider that understands who you are is important. If you are LGBTQ and are looking for mental health services to meet your needs, check out these resources:

At Guild, we are committed to providing person-centered services that address all aspects of your identity. Interested in our services? Give our Community Access team a call at (651) 925-8490.

Want to learn more about the LGBTQIA+ community? Start here.



Mental Health and the LGBTQ Community, Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 

LGBTQ+ Communities and Mental Health, Mental Health America. 

LGBTQI, National Alliance on Mental Illness. 

Breaking Barriers to Quality Mental Health Care for LGBTQ Youth, The Trevor Project. 

Mental Health By the Numbers, National Alliance on Mental Illness. 

National Survey on LGBTQ Mental Health 2019, The Trevor Project.