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Mental Health in the LGBTQ Community

Your mental health is a foundational cornerstone to your overall well-being. While you’ve undoubtedly experienced the occasional ups and downs of life, mental health conditions have a reach that extends further. If you’re a member of the LGBTQ community, you still face the same mental health conditions as the rest of the population. However, factors like prejudice and other biases towards your sexual orientation or gender identity may increase the prevalence of these conditions. Here are a few things to know about mental health in the LGBTQ community.

More likely to be afflicted

The National Alliance on Mental Illness estimates that members of the LGBTQ community are three times more likely to experience mental health conditions including depression and generalized anxiety disorder. Coming out, facing discrimination and navigating existing stigmas, can lead to increased rates of complex and significant mental health conditions.

It’s a twofold issue since mental health conditions and discussions on mental health are themselves still widely stigmatized by a large amount of the population. While some members of the LGBTQ community feel forced to hide their sexual orientation or gender identities from health care professionals for fear of prejudice, those same LGBTQ individuals may feel uncomfortable disclosing their mental health conditions to other community members for fear of ridicule or social ostracization.

Competent  care

One of the biggest frustrations LGBTQ community members struggling with mental illness face is finding competent care for their needs. Through the 1950s and ’60s, a vast number of psychiatric professionals believed both homosexuality and bisexuality to be a mental illness. In fact, it wasn’t until June of this year that the World Health Organization decided to declassify being transgender as a mental illness. Many LGBTQ individuals have difficulties seeking care because they’re unsure as to the level of competent care they’ll receive and whether or not they’ll find a health care professional who understands their unique needs.

Luckily, more and more licensed mental health professionals are taking the necessary steps to properly educate themselves on the precise needs of the LGBTQ community as well as the distinct mental health issues that LGBTQ individuals face. Previously, it wasn’t uncommon for providers to focus their attention more on a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity itself, as compared to their struggles with mental health requiring care. With time, the hope is that more medical professionals work to craft inclusive health care spaces for all patients.

Finding resources

In the past, it was difficult for individuals to determine whether or not a provider was LGBTQ-friendly without first committing to an appointment, something that takes time and money, the latter of which is a major concern when it comes to seeking care. It’s unrealistic to expect you to use a trial-and-error method to find the right therapist or psychiatrist to address your mental health needs. Thankfully, many mental health professionals are working towards including themselves in directories of lgbt friendly therapists to increase the ease with which they are able to connect with patients.

Outside of provider directories, such as the one offered by the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association, a wide variety of online resources and suggested readings are available to both adults and youth members of the LGBT community. It’s best to educate yourself before any appointment through resources like the Healthcare Equality Index to learn more about inclusive policies that are being implemented nationwide.

A brighter future

While large strides are yet to be made when it comes to the proper treatment of mental health conditions within the LGBTQ community, the present levels of progress are an encouraging start. When it comes to your mental and emotional well-being, it’s never too late to seek support and resources. Even if you’re now experiencing struggles with your mental health or sense of well-being, it’s still fully possible for you to take control of your health and set yourself on a better path.