Members of the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer (LGBTQ) communities often deal with a range of mental health issues. These issues often stem from cultural stigmas, prejudice, and discrimination. These harmful stigmas can lead to homophobia, and victimization of LGBTQ individuals. Sadly, these stigmas can come from society, peers, and family members and even in the workplace and schools. According to The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), homophobia is defined as the “irrational fear or hatred of gay people.”
Often, LGBTQ individuals internalize society’s negative views of sexual orientation or gender identity onto themselves. This affects their mental well-being. In fact, NAMI states “LGBTQ people are likely to be at higher risk for depression.” These societal stigmas and negative attitudes increase risks for bullying, teasing, and physical violence on LGBTQ youth. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), LGBTQ youth are at an increased risk for violent experiences due to bullying, teasing, physical harassment, and assault. LGBTQ youth also face an increased rick in suicidal thoughts, behaviors, attempts, and completion. A survey of 7,000 7th and 8th grade adolescence examining the social climate and homophobic bullying on LGBTQ and questioning youth found:
- LGBTQ youth were more likely than heterosexual peers to report high levels of bullying and substance abuse
- Questioning students reported more bullying, substance abuse, feelings of depression, and suicidal behaviors than heterosexual or LGBTQ peers
- LGBTQ students who did not experience homophobic teasing reported the lowest levels of depression and suicidal thoughts
Other factors that contribute to the mental health issue in the LGBTQ community include hiding their sexual orientation and identity issues from society, as well as the constant threat of violence and harassment. According to NAMI, 25% of gay/bisexual males and 20% of lesbian/bisexual women were victimized due to their sexual orientation, resulting in more reports of depressive symptoms.
Another factor is that LGBTQ groups deal with stigmas of mental health, sexual orientation, and/or gender identity. These stigmas often lead to lack of familial support . Researchers Caitlin Ryan and César E. Chávez found a relation between specific, negative family reactions to their child’s sexual orientation and serious health problems for these adolescents in young adulthood—such as depression, suicide attempts, risk for HIV infection, and substance abuse. It is estimated that 20-30% of LGBTQ individuals abuse substances. Use of drugs, alcohol and tobacco is higher among the LGBTQ community, compared to 9% of the general population. Accepting one’s own sexual identity is used to help recover from mental health disparities such as depression and/or substance abuse disorder.
Overall, mental disorders affect all despite age, race, gender, sexual orientation, and sexual identity. Stigmas, lack of family support, violence, and internalized homophobia negatively impacts mental well-being. These factors can lead to mental disorders such as Depression, Substance Abuse disorder, and Anxiety disorders. Self- acceptance is the main option for recovery of mental health.
- The Trevor Project provides a support network for LGBTQ youth as well as crisis intervention and suicide prevention.
- The Association for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender Issues in Counseling provides a list of resources regarding issues related to the counseling of LGBTQ individuals.
- The GLBT National Help Center provides free & confidential peer-support via hotline and online support chats.
- The Pride Institute is an LGBTQ exclusive facility that offers a residential treatment program, including psychiatric care.
- Brikett, M., Espelage, D., & Koenig, B. (n.d.). LGB and Questioning Students in Schools: The Moderating Effects of Homophobic Bullying and School Climate on Negative Outcomes. Journal of Youth and Adolescence, (38), 989-1000.
- Carosone, Michael. "Yes, Suicide Is a Gay Issue." The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 25 Sept. 2013. Web. 18 Dec. 2013. <http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-carosone/yes-suicide-is-a-gay-issue_b_3975312.html>.
- Grossman, A., & D'Augelli, A. (2007). Transgender Youth And Life-Threatening Behaviors. Suicide and Life-Threatening Behavior, (37), 527-537.
- Kerr, Michael. "Depression and Sexual Orientation." Healthlines RSS News. Healthlines Network, 29 Mar. 2012. Web. 18 Dec. 2013. <http://www.healthline.com/health/depression/gay>.
- "NAMI - The National Alliance on Mental Illness." NAMI. The National Alliance on Mental Illness. Web. 18 Dec. 2013. <http://www.nami.org/Template.cfm?Section=Depression&Template=/ContentManagement/ContentDisplay.cfm&ContentID=144036>.
- Russell, S., & Joyner, K. (2001). Adolescent Sexual Orientation And Suicide Risk: Evidence From A National Study. American Journal of Public Health, (91), 1276-1281.