As time progresses, it seems as if society’s ideologies have progressed along with it. In the twenty-first century, we have seen exponential growth in accepting and understanding things that were previously considered taboo. For instance, gay marriage is now legal after endless legal battles and protests, which has been a huge win for the LGBTQ+ community. There are now a plethora of resources and support systems for those who identify as LGBTQ+ as well as their families, which is something that society has been lacking for far too long due to the fear of and rejection of the community. With that being said, we cannot only look at the positives and ignore the reality of what is occurring within the LGBTQ+ community, especially in terms of mental health.
What is going on?
On paper, the LGBTQ+ community seems to be flourishing in society due to the various aspects discussed above. Unfortunately, the world does not operate in the binary of black and white. The LGBTQ+ community is still suffering. Hidden behind the legality of gay marriage are individuals who are blatant in their displays of homophobia and acts of aggression toward those within the community. Behind the plentiful resources available to those who identify as LGBTQ+ are unaccepting families and the risk of homelessness that comes with being outed.
Just because anti-discrimination laws are passed along with a societal façade of acceptance does not mean that the LGBTQ+ community is thriving. The LGBTQ+ community faces numerous burdens that result in them suffering from various mental health conditions, ranging from employment discrimination to being afraid of being truthful during medical appointments. With this being said, it is important that we acknowledge what causes these specific mental health conditions and address them with a specific focus on the LGBTQ+ community. This brings forth an imperative need for mental health services specifically tailored to the needs of the LGBTQ+ community as well as their family members.
What are the statistics?
In order to truly grasp the gravity of the situation, statistics can provide a clearer understanding of just how bad things are.
LGB students in high school are nearly five times as likely to commit suicidal attempts in comparison to those who are heterosexual.
4% of the United States population has considered suicide in the past twelve months, while a large 48% of transgender adults have contemplated suicide in the past twelve months.
While 5-10% of the United States population reports substance abuse, 20-30% of LGBT individuals report substance abuse.
LGBTQ youth are at a 120% greater risk of homelessness than their heterosexual peers, with LGBTQ youth making up 40% of the homeless youth.
LGBT individuals are four times more likely to have mental health conditions than heterosexual individuals.
These statistics are just a handful of those that depict the ways in which the LGBTQ+ community is struggling to stay afloat whilst living in a society that oppresses them in numerous ways.
How can we change these statistics for the better?
The simple answer, with love and support. We need to educate those who do not understand the obstacles faced by the LGBTQ+ community. Educating individuals leads to a better understanding, which can facilitate conversations between friends, family members, and even strangers that never would have happened without this new information. There is no single solution to this issue due to its complexity. Individuals are raised in households that can either encourage their growth or diminish it, depending on their caregivers and their views. While we cannot intervene in these households where families are not accepting, we can provide love and support to those who are suffering as a result. Having psychologists and school counselors who specialize or are thoroughly educated on LGBTQ+ struggles and needs will allow them to treat these individuals in a manner that is tailored to their needs.
If you are asking yourself what you can do to help, here are a few tips that come from both personal and educational experience:
Approach your LGBTQ+ friends and family with an open mind and an open heart.
Oppression can lead to depression. Stand up for what you believe in. Advocate for yourself, your loved ones, or even for strangers.
If you or someone you know is struggling with any of the things discussed in this article, seek help. Do not try and fight these battles on your own, there is no shame in asking for help from a loved one or a licensed professional.
Volunteer for your local LGBTQ+ organizations in order to help push for a better, healthier environment where individuals can flourish and be themselves.
What are some important LGBTQ+ organizations?
The Human Rights Campaign (https://www.hrc.org)
Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (https://pflag.org)
The Trevor Project (https://www.thetrevorproject.org)
STOP THE STIGMA. SAVE LIVES.
Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Communities and Mental Health. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.mhanational.org/issues/lesbiangaybisexualtransgender-communities-and-mental-health?utm_content=bufferf28e7&utm_medium=social&utm_source=facebook.com&utm_campaign=buffer
NAMI. (2019). Retrieved from https://www.nami.org/find-support/lgbtq
The issues. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.covenanthouse.org/homeless-issues/lgbtq-homeless-youth