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The LGBTQ Community and Mental Health

TW: Suicide, Substance Abuse, Anti-LGBTQ Violence, Death (mild description)

Mental health undoubtedly affects a large population of people around the world (13% of the world population). However, it especially affects the LGBTQ+ community, considering the heavy amount of stigma surrounding their identity.


Nevertheless, it is VERY important to understand that being LGBTQ+ is NOT a mental illness and it absolutely does not cause any sorts or types of problems mentally or psychologically, as previously- incorrectly- known.


Due to the various amounts of prejudice and abuse such as:

  • Homophobia, biphobia, transphobia

  • Stigma and discrimination

  • Difficult experiences of coming out

  • Social isolation, exclusion and rejection that the community goes through,

LGBTQ+ youth are more likely to have mental health issues.


Statistics


LGBTQ+ youth face approximately 14 times the risk of suicide and substance abuse than their heterosexual peers. Moreover, research conducted by the Canadian Mental Health Association suggests that the use of alcohol, tobacco and other substance is 2 to 4 times higher among LGBTQ+ people than heterosexual people.


A study published in the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics shows that nearly 20% of transgender adolescents had previously attempted suicide. Among non-binary adolescents, nearly 42% of them had.


In HRC’s 2018 LGBTQ Youth Report, results reveal that only 24% of LGBTQ+ adolescents could safely label themselves as LGBTQ+ at home.


Why is This?


There are many reasons for the huge mental health disparity with the LGBTQ+ community. This is due to the many experiences that LGBTQ+ people will often have to deal with as a minority community, such as stigma, prejudice and discrimination.


- Acceptance (or the Lack Thereof)


Many LGBTQ+ teens are scared of coming out to their families since they do not want to lose their family’s support and/or love. This was a very frequently observed occurrence in LGBTQ+ families in the United States, where youth with supportive parents were found to have more positive self-esteem as well as better general health. However, in families with poor support or lack of acceptance, LGBTQ+ teenagers were found to have higher risks of depression, substance abuse and suicidal behaviours due to the difficulty in coping with the rejection of something as personal as one’s identity from family or close friends, within the workplace or in a faith community.


In addition, peer victimisation at school is also one of the leading causes of high-risk behaviours of LGBTQ+ youth, including substance abuse and high-risk sexual behaviours. The National School Climate survey done in 2019 showed that 86% of LGBTQ+ students reported being harassed or assaulted in school.


- Hate Crimes


While many countries have implemented anti-discriminatory laws to protect the LGBTQ+ community, anti-LGBTQ+ hate crimes continue to happen. In November 2020, the FBI revealed that hate crimes based on sexual orientation and identity represented 16.7% of all hate crimes, although this is an unreliable number since it was stated that several states did not report any anti-LGBT hate crimes whatsoever.


Hate crimes are most visibly apparent against transgender people, most significantly, transgender women. According to the National Center for Transgender Equality, over 25% of people who identified as transgender were victims of transphobic assault. In May of 2011 alone, 16 people lost their lives due to transphobic abuse, and in 2020, at least 44 did.


Discrimination, harassment and violence against transgender people, in particular, have been undoubtedly common in places of public accommodations such as hotels, restaurants or government offices. A survey conducted in the United States concluded that 1 in 3 transgender people have been physically harassed or denied public services. Ongoing discrimination in public spaces will and can push transgender people (and LGBTQ+ people) out of their community, making it harder for them to access key services including public transportation, stores or restaurants without constant fear. Disconnecting them from their society itself is simply cruel and unjust.


Not only does this make it incredibly depressing for LGBTQ+ youth around the world, but it also prevents them from living their lives without fear of being abused.


- Inaccessibility and inadequacy in Healthcare


In many countries around the world, transgender people are not provided the same healthcare services as cis-gendered people. Members of the LGBTQ+ community may also face harassment or lack of cultural competency from potential providers. These traumatic experiences may and can lead to a fear of disclosing sexual orientation and/ or gender identity due to potential discrimination. Moreover, other identity factors including race and economic status can affect the quality of care they receive or their ability to access care.


LGBTQ Suicide Prevention Resources


However, many charities and organisations across the globe have stepped up to help LGBTQ communities in the huge disparity of mental health issues they suffer from, including many suicide prevention resources, which are as follow:


US:


The Trevor Project

  • Lifeline: 1-866-488-7386

  • You can also use their chat and messaging programs on their website.


LGBT National Hotline

  • 1-888-843-4564


Trans Lifeline

  • 1-877-565-8860


DeQH

  • Hotline for South Asian/Desi LGBTQ+ youth

  • 908-367-3374


UK:


LGBT Foundation

  • 0345 3 303030


Mermaids UK

  • 0808 801 0400


Switchboard

  • 0300 330 0630


HK:


Rainbow of Hong Kong


Lifespan Counselling


Neo Health


Worldwide:


It Gets Better

  • An organisation hoping to use LGBTQ youth stories to uplift and connect the community across the globe.


How To Help


  1. Accept LGBTQ+ youth for who they are. Support them as they come out, use their pronouns, do not try to avoid the topic or suggest that they are invalid.

  2. As an ally, you will face less discrimination and hate, making it easier for you to speak out against the disparity of policies LGBTQ+ youth. Sign petitions or go to protests to demand politicians to address the issue.

  3. Don’t make assumptions and listen to their experiences. Try to avoid assuming their backstory based on what you already know about mental health or LGBTQ+ issues. Instead, ask and listen to what they are telling you (only when/ if one is comfortable sharing). Giving them space is important.

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