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Mental Health & The LGBTQ Community

The LGBTQ+ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) community has some of the highest rates of people experiencing mental illnesses. Let’s get one thing very clear, identifying as LGBTQ+ is not a mental illness. There is no one reason why mental illness in this community is so high, but it likely has to do with the amount of fear, discrimination, trauma, and adversity that many LGBTQ+ individuals have experienced. There is also a stigma around receiving mental health treatment and LGBTQ+ people often have more barriers to receiving mental health care than others.

How Does Mental Health Impact the LGBTQ+ Community?

Studies conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness indicate that LGB adults are twice as likely to experience mental health conditions than heterosexual adults, and transgender adults are four times more likely than cisgender adults to experience mental health conditions. Individuals in the LGBTQ+ are highly likely to experience risk factors for developing mental health conditions.

Risk factors that may lead to mental health conditions are:

  • Experiencing trauma: Discrimination, prejudice, and bullying can be very traumatic to experience. The LGBTQ+ community is one of the most targeted communities for violence and hate crimes. LGBTQ+ individuals often face being stereotyped, labeled, and verbally and physically abused. Experiencing trauma also puts LGBTQ+ individuals at a higher risk for developing posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
  • Coming out: “Coming out” refers to the experience of sharing one’s sexual orientation or gender identity with the world. While there has been a huge shift in more people being accepted for being themselves after coming out, people coming out at young ages can be at an even higher risk for developing mental health conditions if they are living in unsupportive environments.
  • Being rejected: Many LGBTQ+ individuals have experienced rejection from loved ones after coming out. 40% of LGBTQ+ adults have reported being rejected by a family member at some point in their lives. Dealing with rejection about your own identity from friends, parents, church members, or any other peers can be very difficult to cope with.
  • Experiencing homelessness: LGBTQ+ youth are at 120% higher risk of experiencing homelessness than others. This is often because of being rejected by family members and being kicked out of the house at a young age. The risk of being kicked out of the house is the highest amongst Black and Native American LGBTQ+ youth.

How You Can Support People in the LGBTQ+ Community

LGBTQ+ individuals deserve the same respect and support as anyone else. You can help make a difference and combat some of the discrimination and trauma that afflict the LGBTQ+ community.

Here are 5 ways you can be more supportive:

  1. Educate yourself: In order to be an ally and become more supportive of the LGBTQ+ community, you must start with yourself. Do your own research, read books, attend workshops, and talk to people who are part of the community.
  2. Learn and use pronouns: Learn what pronouns exist and how to use them. Introduce yourself with your pronouns to invite others to feel comfortable sharing theirs. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes either. If you accidentally call someone the wrong pronoun, apologize and move on. Practice makes perfect, so remember to correct yourself if you use the wrong pronouns. It’s important to understand that they aren’t just “preferred pronouns.” Pronouns are not a preference, they are a part of a person’s identity and it is important to use the correct ones.
  3. Accept everyone’s labels: Don’t criticize anyone’s labels. If someone identifies themselves a certain way, respect that. Don’t worry if you think someone is incorrectly using a label. Labels are very personal and some people may find different meanings in the same label. Instead of judging, ask open-minded questions and try to understand the nuances of each person’s identity.
  4. Protect LGBTQ+ rights: This community still has to actively fight for basic human rights all around the world. Some examples include fighting for the rights to get legally married, join the military, keep their jobs, and not be denied access to healthcare.
  5. Help break the stigma around receiving mental health care: If you know someone in the LGBTQ+ community who is experiencing mental health conditions, allow them to talk openly about their experiences and offer support. If you are someone in the LGBTQ+ community experiencing mental health illnesses, you can help fight the stigma by sharing your experiences with others who are struggling. Anyone can help break the stigma by fighting for equality in your communities and working to reduce the barriers that LGBTQ+ people face in the healthcare system.

Mental Health Resources for People in the LGBTQ+ Community

With there often being more barriers to proper healthcare in the LGBTQ+ community, it is important to know how and where to seek help. Here are some helpful resources for finding healthcare and other mental health resources:

Hotlines

Trans Lifeline: Trans Lifeline is a nonprofit organization that offers emotional and financial support to trans people experiencing a crisis. You can contact the hotline at 877-565-8860

LGBT National Youth Talkline: This hotline is for LGBT youth to be able to talk about any challenges they are experiencing and receive support on a wide variety of subjects such as coming out, safe sex, and bullying. Their contact number is 1-800-246-7743

TrevorLifeline: The Trevor Project offers support to the LGBTQ+ community with trained counselors in mental health. Their hotline number is 1-866-488-7386

TrevorText: The Trevor Project also has a text line where you can chat with a counselor. To get started text START to 678-678

GLBT National Hotline: This hotline is for all members of the LGBT community to receive support on a wide variety of subjects, including mental health concerns. You can call them at 1-888-843-4564

How to Find an LGBTQ+ Competent Mental Health Professional

  1. Figure out what kind of professional you are looking for: If your mental health concerns are related to your sexual orientation or gender identity, you may be looking for a mental health professional who is also a part of the LGBTQ+ community and can better understand and relate to you.
  2. Get referrals: Search online directories for mental health professionals who are LGBTQ+ friendly. You can also ask your insurance company, friends and family, and local LGBTQ+ community or health centers for referrals.
  3. Schedule a call: Once you have found a solid list of referrals, schedule a call and make sure they are a good fit for you. Don’t be afraid to ask outright if they are competent and comfortable working with you and be specific about your identity. If you are worried about making that call yourself, ask a friend or family member to help make the call with you.
  4. Questions to ask: In order to make sure they can properly address your needs, ask questions like:
    • What experience do you have working with people with my identity?
    • Do you have any special training or certifications for working with the LGBTQ+ community?
  5. Make sure you feel comfortable enough to build a relationship. If you don’t click with a certain provider, do not be afraid to ask for a change, or call around to meet other providers. It is important that you feel comfortable with your provider and can be open with them.

For additional advice on finding mental healthcare, you can always give us a call here at Jackson House. Our contact number is 888-255-9280. We are here to assist with any mental health needs and understand the importance of getting proper help so that you can feel like yourself.

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If you’re a provider and need to send us information on a client, please feel free to fax us at 619-303-7044. If you need help immediately, call our 24-hour crisis line at 1-800-766-4274. If you have a medical emergency, call 911. Jackson House is licensed by the State of California Community Care Licensing Division and certified by the Department of Health Care Services. We are also CARF Accredited. If you have any client or quality of care concerns, please reach out to us at (888) 255-9280. If your concerns need further attention, you can contact the Department of Public Health at 619-278-3700 or the Community Care Licensing Division at 1-844-538-8766.