When it comes to mental health, it may seem like the majority of society and the media’s attention is focused on the experiences of cisgender, heterosexual individuals. With the lack of media representation and proper resources along with the absence of actual conversations about how mental illnesses disproportionately impact the LGBT+ community, being a queer person with a mental illness can seem suffocating and alienating. The truth is, being LGBT can make you more likely to develop a mental health condition in your lifetime, and it can make you less likely to both seek and receive treatment for your illness.
According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, or NAMI, LGBT adults are more than twice as likely as heterosexual adults to experience a mental health condition, and LGBT high school students are almost five times more likely to die by suicide than their heterosexual counterparts. Mental Health America, or MHA, reports that LGBT individuals are 2.5 times more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and substance misuse.
So, what contributes to these statistics? The LGBT+ community experiences unique forms of discrimination and disrespect, and many are also faced with a lack of acceptance from their friends, family, and society itself. Some healthcare professionals are reluctant to provide necessary treatment to LGBT inviduals, with MHA’s research stating that more than 1 in 5 LGBT individuals reported withholding information about their sexual practices from a health care professional, and approximately 8 percent of LGB individuals and nearly 27 percent of transgender individuals report being denied needed health care outright.
Being a member of the LGBT community doesn’t make you inherently more likely to develop a mental illness, but it does make you more vulnerable to the feelings of isolation, fear, shame, and guilt that many LGBT individuals, particularly LGBT youth, experience. Grappling with your identity and who you are as a person is difficult enough, and with both external pressures and hatred being thrown at LGBT youth, their state of mind can quickly deteriorate and they are more likely to end up depressed, anxious, or even suicidal.
With the political climate in the U.S. more tense and polarized than ever, having conversations about tough topics like this one can seem difficult and often even impossible. The mental health epidemic that plagues our nation disproportionately impacts LGBT youth, and these individuals are less likely to both seek and receive treatment due to a variety of factors. It’s essential that we as a society learn to accept people for who they are, and realize that there are countless members of the LGBT community who suffer from mental illnesses alone and in silence. That’s why we’re here. To promise you that you’re not alone. We’re here with you!