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LGBTQ+ and mental health

LGBTQ+ and mental health

LGBTQ+ communities are at a higher risk of experiencing mental health issues

We all have a gender identity, such as being male or female. Some of us are LGBTQ+, which includes various gender identities like lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer.  

We can also use other terms to describe our gender identity, many of which can be found in the Equality Network’s glossary. Unfortunately, LGBTQ+ communities often face unique challenges that can affect their mental wellbeing.  

Available data show that transgender people are more likely to grapple with conditions like anxiety, depression and thoughts of self-harm. This highlights why we need to focus on mental health in LGBTQ+ communities and make spaces that are not more inclusive and supportive spaces. 

Does being LGBTQ+ affect my mental health? 

Being LGBTQ+ does not cause mental health issues. However, LGBTQ+ communities are more likely to face negative experiences because of their gender, thus impacting their mental health. This could include: 

Hate crimes

Facing hate crimes is difficult. The most common form of it is verbal abuse. For instance, LGBTQ+ individuals often experience discrimination or might even be bullied because of their gender. Experiencing hate crimes, or even just anticipating a hate crime, can lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety.

Coming out

Coming out can be both liberating and scary. It’s wonderful when loved ones accept you, but the fear of rejection can be stressful. This anxiety can lead to isolation and worry about how people will react. 

Body image

Many in LGBTQ+ communities struggle with body imagebody dysmorphia and self-identity. Feeling disconnected from your own body or not expressing yourself can lead to eating disorders, anxiety and depression. 

Accessing healthcare

Some LGBTQ+ folks face discrimination in healthcare settings, which makes seeking help difficult. Being misgendered or not being heard can affect mental health, making it hard to access the care you need.

Family problems

Some family members may react negatively to their relatives coming out. People in LGBTQI+ communities may be rejected from their family and support network and have to cut off relationships they previously had. Rejection can lead to isolation and feelings of sadness and trauma as relationships break apart. 

Misgendering

Misgendering, using incorrect pronouns, or arguing about gender can be hurtful.  Lack of social acceptance, lowered self-esteem and recurrent stressors are the leading causes of higher rates of depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, trauma-related concerns and substance use.

LGBTQ+ in rural areas

Being part of the LGBTQ+ community can be even more challenging for those living in rural communities. Compared to 59% of participants who lived in urban areas, only 39% of participants who resided in rural areas thought that their local area was a good place for LGBTQ+ people to live based on a survey from the 2023 Rural report from LGBT Youth Scotland.

The report further mentions a lack of visibility, acceptance and resources for LGBTQ+ individuals in rural areas compared to urban communities. The prevailing attitudes in these settings may be less understanding of diverse gender identities, which leads to increased feelings of isolation, discrimination and a lack of support for those who identify as LGBTQ+.

“I have reported hate crimes to the police in the past, when I was younger and dealing with them I was often not believed or they didn’t think it was that big of a deal. I was told several times that if I “didn’t shove it in people’s faces” then I’d be fine; I was a young teenager who didn’t talk to people or go out, the most “flaunting” I did was wear a badge and host a lunch group when I was in school.”

Participant of the LGBT Youth Scotland survey

In partnership with Equality Network, Change Mental Health explored the key themes behind understanding the poor mental health of many in Scotland’s LGBTQ community across the rural landscape. You can read more here.

How do I get support? 

Feeling overwhelmed or uncertain about seeking support whilst facing mental health challenges as part of LGBTQ+ communities is completely natural. However, prioritising your wellbeing and safety is crucial. 

  • Know your rights: It’s essential to be aware that discrimination against LGBTQ+ individuals is illegal under the Equality Act 2010. You can learn more about your rights by consulting a trusted healthcare professional or accessing support services. 
  • Don’t feel pressured to talk: It’s important to choose someone you feel entirely comfortable with before opening up. You should never feel pressured into conversations you’re not ready for. 
  • Get an advocate:  Consider having an advocate – an independent person not connected with healthcare services – who can stand up for your rights. They can accompany you to meetings and appointments to ensure your voice is heard and valued. You can learn more about advocates on Stonewall’s website.
  • Change Mental Health support: Our services are designed to support individuals across Scotland with their mental health. Visit our support page to find the right support for you.

How do I support someone who is LGBTQ+? 

For those in the LGBTQ+ community, having a supportive ally can be a lifeline, providing understanding, acceptance and reassurance that they are not alone. Here are some ways to be an ally:

Respect their identity

Always respect their chosen names and pronouns. Acknowledge and affirm their identity just like anyone else. 

Listen and learn 

Actively listen to their experiences and concerns. Educate yourself about the challenges of LGBTQ+ issues. Advocate against discrimination and prejudice in your interactions and communities.

Foster an inclusive environment

Create a safe and inclusive space where they can express themselves without fear of judgment or discrimination. Show your commitment to their wellbeing and happiness.

Take discrimination seriously

If someone tells you they have been discriminated against, ask them what they are comfortable telling you and then take the necessary steps to ensure their welfare. Make sure you are consulting the person who has confided in you if you take any action and listen to their thoughts.

Stand up for people

Even if there is no one around from the LGBTQ+ community, make sure you do not use discriminatory language or support anyone who does.

support

Our Advice and Support Service is open Monday to Friday, 10am to 4pm, where advisers can signpost you to local support that most fits your needs, including our Change Mental Health services. We offer initial advice on money worries and help to deal with emergencies. 

Contact 0808 8010 515, email us at advice@changemh.org or fill out the enquiry form on the Advice and Support Service page. 

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