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LGBTQI+ and mental health

People in LGBTQI+ communities may be at a higher risk for experiencing mental health issues as a result of their distinct life experiences.

People in LGBTQI+ communities are more likely to experience mental health problems, however this is not to say all people in these communities will experience poor mental health.

LGBTQI+ is the acronym that refers to anyone who does not identify as heterosexual and/or cisgendered.


Lesbian –  a woman/woman-aligned person who is attracted to only people of the same/similar gender.


     Gay – term used to refer to men/men-aligned individuals who are only attracted to people of the same/similar gender.


Bisexual –  indicates an attraction to all genders.


Transgender – a term that indicates that a person’s gender identity is different from the gender associated with the sex they were assigned at birth.


Queer – often considered an umbrella term for anyone who is non-cisgender or heterosexual. But it is also a slur.


Intersex – term to describe individuals who are born with variations of sex characteristics that do not fit with binary definitions of male or female bodies


 All of the gender identities and sexual orientations that are not specifically covered by the other five initials.

Being LGBTIQ+ doesn’t cause mental health problems, but as part of a minority group they can experience minority stress. These external stressors, such as discrimination and homophobia, can negatively impact their mental health and wellbeing. 88% of participants in LGBT Youth Scotland’s Health Report (2023) reported that they experienced at least one mental health condition or related behaviour. Furthermore, A Health Needs Assessment carried out by NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde, NHS Lothian and Public Health Scotland indicated that trans people were more likely to experience poor mental health including anxiety and depression and have suicidal thoughts than cisgender participants.

Life experiences 

Members of LGBTQI+ communities are more likely to face experiences in their lives that can negatively impact their mental health:

Hate crimes

The most common type of hate crime people in LGBTQI+ communities experience is verbal abuse. Furthermore, transgender people are around twice as likely to experience threats of physical or sexual harassment or violence compared with the other LGBTQIA+ communities. Experiencing hate crimes, or even just anticipating a hate crime, can lead to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), depression, and anxiety.

Coming out

To some people in these communities, coming out may feel liberating and bring feelings of happiness. However, it can also be a very challenging time. There can be a lot of anxiety around not knowing how others will react, which can lead to stress and isolation.

Body image

Negative body image and body dysmorphia is common amongst people in LGBTQI+ communities. This can be due to not identifying with the body you were born in or feeling unable to express yourself freely. This can lead to eating disorders, anxiety and depression.

Accessing healthcare

People in LGBTQ+ communities may experience discrimination in a health care setting, for example they might be misgendered, not listened to, or a healthcare professional may ‘out’ someone without their prior consent. This can lead to a reluctance to see health support which can increase symptoms of poor mental health.

Family problems

Some family members may react negatively to their relative coming out. People in LGBTQI+ communities may be rejected from their family and support network, and have to cut off relationships they previously had. This rejection can lead to isolation, depression, and PTSD.


Misgendering is the deliberate or accidental use of incorrect pronouns, using former names and arguing with a person about their pronouns or gender. Prolonged exposure to misgendering can seriously impact a person’s mental health. 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, disordered eating and substance use.


Getting support

It might feel overwhelming and daunting to seek support if you are experiencing mental health problems and are part of LGBTQI+ communities, however it is so important to look after your wellbeing and ensure your safety.

  • Know your rights: Under the Equality Act 2010 it is illegal to discriminate against anyone who is part of LGBTQI+ communities. To learn more about your rights you can talk to a trusted health professional, visit support services, or do your own research on the internet.
  • Don’t feel pressured to talk: Make sure you feel completely comfortable with someone before you talk to them, and don’t let anyone make you have conversations you don’t want to have.
  • Get an advocate: An advocate is someone independent of healthcare services who will stand up for you and your rights. They can accompany you to meetings and appointments to ensure your voice is being heard and listened to.
  • Access services: Our services support people across Scotland with their mental health. Visit our support page to find the right support for you.

Being a good ally

It is so important that those not in the LGBTQI+ communities are good allies and support those who are in the communities. Here are some ways to be a good ally:

  • Be respectful and listen: If someone in a LGBTQI+ communities tells you their sexuality, gender, and/or pronouns, make sure you listen to what they say and respect it going forward. For example, if someone tells you their preferred pronouns, make sure you use them even when they’re not around.
  • Don’t make assumptions: Avoid assuming you know someone’s sexuality or gender. For example, use ‘partner’ when referring to someone they are in a relationship with.
  • 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 a LGBTQI+ community, make sure you do not use discriminatory language or support anyone that does.
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