LGBTQIA+ Community & Mental Health

The Nystrom & Associates provider consulted for this article is Jessica Corpe, MSW, LICSW, DBT, and Outpatient Therapist 

Being a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA+) community doesn’t necessarily increase the risk for mental health issues. However, the stigma and discrimination LGBTQIA+ individuals may face from family, friends, and society can increase the risk for mental health challenges.  

It is really important to know that identifying as LGBTQIA+ is not a mental illness or disorder. In addition, it's crucial to be aware of common mental health issues that the LGBTQIA+ community may experience so you can identify any struggles in yourself or a loved one. 

Visit the LGBTQIA+ Community specialty page for more information.  

LQBTQIA+ Mental Health Facts 

Mental health is a state of psychological well-being. It involves how we think, feel, and act as we cope with life, how we manage stress and interact with others, and how we make life decisions. For several reasons, the LGBTQIA+ community suffers from poorer overall mental health compared to heterosexuals. 

Nystrom & Associates provider Jessica Corpe shares some facts surrounding the LGBTQIA+ community and mental health.  

LGBTQ youths are at a higher risk for depression, anxiety, and suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. And LGBTQ youths who are targeted for harassment and discriminatory behavior show some of the highest rates of suicide and suicidal ideology.

In addition, LGBTQIA+ community members face multiple barriers when it comes to mental health.  

Related: Coping With Suicidal Thoughts

LGBTQIA+ Community Mental Health Barriers 

Stigma and bias can prevent LGBTQIA+ individuals from getting the help they might need.

For example, Corpe describes the challenges individuals may face.  

Individuals that identify as part of the LGBTQIA+ community have mental health challenges unique to the community and the members within it. LGBTQIA+ individuals are often faced with stigma and bias from our heteronormative society, and they are more likely to struggle to obtain appropriate mental health services that meet their specific needs.

Many in the LGBTQIA+ community face discrimination, prejudice, harassment, and family rejection, which can lead to new or worsened symptoms. Corpe goes on to explain the steps necessary for mental health professionals to implement.  

Members of the LGBTQIA+ community need more knowledgeable and professional providers that support and celebrate their gender identity, sexual orientation, and other identities...As a licensed clinician, it can be important to support the family system when psychoeducation is needed or if the family system is struggling to understand/support their LGBTQIA+ child or adolescent. 

In other words, a qualified mental health professional can help provide valuable support for LGBTQIA+ individuals and their families as well.

Related: Mental Health Awareness

LGBTQIA+ Clinical Focus  

In therapy, the following topics are of clinical focus for members of the LGBTQIA+ community:

Coping and Healing from Discrimination and Patterns of Bullying

There are many negative stereotypes about being LGBTQ+ which makes many uncomfortable letting people know this important part of their identity. When people do openly express this part of themselves, they face the potential of rejection from peers, colleagues, and friends can exacerbate feelings of loneliness. Above all, this affects an individuals' self-esteem, stress levels, and well-being. 

Gender Identity (WPATH Letters in support of Transition and/or Surgery) 

Gender identity is typically developed very early in life. It’s about how an individual perceives their gender, how they show this to others, and how they want others to treat them.

Remember that you are not alone. There are an increasing number of people exploring and questioning their gender identity. If you want to talk through any questions or concerns about your gender identity there are people who can help and support you. Likewise, being an active participant in therapy can help to build a sense of community and trust with another person.

Intimate Partner Violence 

There are several aspects of intimate partner violence that can be unique to the LGBTQ community. “Outing” or threatening to reveal one partner’s sexual orientation/gender identity may be used as a tool of abuse in violent relationships and may also be a barrier that reduces the likelihood of help-seeking for the abuse. Certainly, this can cause mental health problems such as depression or anxiety.

Dysphoria is a psychological state that is often caused by or accompanies a mental health condition. It is the opposite of euphoria. For example, the feeling of dysphoria can be accompanied by sadness, fatigue, worry, and/or apathy.

Gender dysphoria is often present in individuals whose gender identity differs from the gender assigned at birth. Gender dysphoria may begin to resolve when an individual transitions, or begins to live as their true gender. Transition can be described as the process through which a person aligns their physical characteristics with their gender identity. This process can often take up to several years and may involve surgery or hormone treatments, though some individuals transition without surgery and/or hormones.

Family Support

Feeling unsupported or misunderstood by family or friends is a common experience. It can affect an individual's well-being and increase their vulnerability to developing mental health difficulties. Likewise, this enhances the importance of finding someone you trust to confide in to support throughout their journey. In short, a mental health professional can talk about an individual's concern for family support, or provide proper resources for support.

Trauma and PTSD

Homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, bullying, and feeling identity-based shame are often traumatic for people. However, with the help of a qualified mental health professional, individuals can begin to heal from trauma. Further, therapy can provide a safe outlet to determine healthy coping skills. 

Substance Use

Substance misuse or overuse is a significant concern for members of this community. Abusing substances may be used as a coping mechanism or method of self-medication. In therapy, individuals can learn to apply healthy coping mechanisms in times of distress. For instance, therapists teach coping skills such as journaling, going for a walk, or talking to a friend or trusted loved one.   

Related: What is Substance Use Disorder?  

A Word From Nystrom & Associates 

In conclusion, there is no single answer for why these disparities exist. But stigma and trauma certainly contribute. Many LGBTQIA+ individuals face barriers to getting good care for mental health.

If you are struggling with mental health problems, please know that help is available. Nystrom & Associates offers individual, couples, and family therapy for all ages. Above all, we can help match you with a right-fit provider. Call 1-844-NYSTROM or request an appointment online.

Related: What Are Mental Health Days?

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