Mental Health in the LGBTQ+ Community
Research shows that individuals who identify as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, or Queer and Questioning are more likely to experience mental illness. This doesn't mean that just because you identify with the LGBTQ+ community you will automatically experience mental illness, but this does mean that there are external factors that increase the likelihood of dealing with psychiatric illnesses such as depression, bipolar disorder, anxiety, post traumatic stress disorder and/or schizophrenia. To Be Honest wants to address the mental health of this population due to the high prevalence of symptoms experienced within the community.
Some of the reasons individuals within the LGBTQ+ community experience mental health conditions include:
1. Worries or fear surrounding coming out. Coming out is a very personal experience and should only be done when a person feels it is the right time for them. Yet, once a person comes out, they may feel that they will experience prejudice or be discriminated against due to their sexual orientation or gender. This leads to many individuals avoiding care or mental health treatment. Thus, a mental or physical health condition may get worse if it is not taken care of when symptoms first appear.
2. Lack of knowledge or discussion about mental health. Like most communities, mental health is stigmatized within the LGBTQ+ community. Due to the hush-hush nature of this topic, those who are experiencing symptoms may not understand what they are going through, won't talk about it with others, and may not know where to seek help. There are many mental health resources for the LGBTQ+ community; many of them are listed at the bottom of this page.
3. Feelings of loneliness. As both someone who identifies with the LGBTQ+ community and someone who is dealing with symptoms of a mental illness, life can feel lonely at times. You may feel as though others can't relate to what you are going through or that you will be judged for who you are. But, that's what makes you YOU. The LGBTQ Youth Space in San Jose is a great resource for your needs -- check it out!
4. Lack of knowledge within the medical field. Although the medical field has improved its knowledge regarding how to treat those who identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community, there are still strides that need to be made. Many medical professionals are unsure how to address mental health within this community and, thus, you may not receive adequate treatment. If you feel as though a medical or mental health professional is either not able to provide you with the treatment you need or not treating you with the respect you deserve, you have the right to seek out treatment with a different individual. Although it may take some trial and error, find a professional that you feel comfortable with and who understands your medical needs. Find a provider that can tend to your needs here, here or here.
5. Housing Insecurity. Youth who identify as LGBTQ+ are more likely to experience unstable housing conditions due to being kicked out or turned away from shelters. As a result, it is more common for LGBTQ+ youth to experience homelessness compared to youth who identify as straight, which can increase stress and decrease physical health. If you are currently experience housing insecurity or think you may, please check out the Bill Wilson Center Runaway and Homeless Youth Shelter. Bill Wilson also has a program that matches homeless LGBTQ+ youth with safe and stable host homes in the community.
6. Discrimination. LGBTQ+ youth who experience a mental illness may face double the stigma due to their mental health and sexual orientation or gender identity. Discrimination from family, friends, and society can take a toll on an individual's mental health; for example, transgender individuals who are discriminated based on which gendered bathroom they choose to use may experience fear and distress which impact an individual's mental health and can result in depression, anxiety or PTSD. Learn what your legal rights are against discrimination.
7. Lack of physical safety. Due to a lack of laws protecting LGBTQ+ youth as well as threats of physical violence against this community, LGBTQ+ youth are more likely to experience fear, stress, and feelings of depression as well as anxiety. In some cases, LGBTQ+ youth may even experience symptoms of PTSD due to their lived experience. Safe spaces in Santa Clara County are quite abundant -- check out the list of resources below to find LGBTQ+ friendly environments near you!
"The history of discrimination and stigma, including lack of acceptance from family members, contributes to higher rates of mental illness."
"38 to 65% of transgender individuals experience suicidal ideation."
"LGBTQ teens are six times more likely to experience symptoms of depression than the general population."
The LGBT community is "two and a half times more likely to experience depression, anxiety and substance misuse."
"28% of LGBTQ youth said they felt depressed most or all of the time during the previous 30 days compared to only 12% of non-LGBTQ youth."
"60% of LGBQ youth reported being so sad or hopeless they stopped doing some of their usual activities."
** If you are in crisis, please call 911 or go to the closest emergency room**
Local (SF, Bay Area):
Santa Clara County Suicide & Crisis Hotline: (855) 278 - 4204
Sexual Identities Clinic @ The Gronowski Center (Palo Alto University)
National Suicide Prevention Line: (800) 273 - 8225