Prioritizing LGBTQ+ Mental Health
Being a part of the LGBTQI community can be a source of strength, but it also presents unique challenges. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ+) individuals are at least twice as likely to experience mental health issues as the overall population. It begs the question of why the LGBTQ+ population has higher issues with mental health.
Life experiences have a big part in it. You’ve probably encountered circumstances that were unsettling. Perhaps something was said or done. Or perhaps all it took was a look to make you feel uncomfortable. The toughest part, though, was having no one to lean on.
It’s critical for LGBTQI people to understand how their experiences with sexual orientation and gender identity impacts mental health. LGBTQ+ people are more likely to encounter prejudice and violence in social settings and in their medical/mental health care. The importance of affirmative care must be emphasized by healthcare professionals.
Limited Affirmative Care
An obstacle LGBTQ+ people face may be getting the treatment they require for their mental health needs due to a lack of affirmative care. Care that is sensitive to cultural differences and supportive of the patient’s gender identity or sexual orientation is referred to as affirmative care. Unfortunately, the approach to sexual orientation and gender identity in mental health care frequently lumps everyone in the LGBTQ+ community together. Since each sub-community has distinct issues, rates of mental illness, and experiences, this approach may be problematic.
The LGBTQ+ community is made up of a diverse group of people, each of whom have unique mental health needs. Race and socioeconomic position are two other identification variables that may have an impact on the standard of treatment or accessibility to care. Due to the possibility of discrimination or incompetence of providers, these experiences might cause a fear of disclosing one’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
Minority Stress & Mental Health
Regardless of sexual orientation, gender identity, color, or ethnicity, stress that isn’t properly handled can result in health issues and harmful behaviors. But those who identify as LGBTQ+ are more likely to develop mental health issues due to minority stress and the experiences of marginalized communities.
LGBTQ+ individuals might not have the support networks necessary to assist them control their stress and emotions. Additionally, the actions individuals do to defend themselves frequently have the opposite impact.
LGBTQ+ Mental Health Stats
LGBTQ+ people are at almost double the risk of developing a mental health challenge than heterosexual people. The mental health of the transgender community tends to have greatest rates of depression, anxiety, and suicidal ideation.
Another prevalent mental health issue in the United States is depression, which affects 1 in 20 Americans on a regular basis. Depression is, however, much more prevalent in the LGBTQ+ population .
According to 2020 statistics from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), 15% of the general population has a Substance use disorder . Even more people in the LGBTQ+ community suffer with s Substance use disorder. 34% of LGBTQ+ adults have drug use problems, according to SAMHSA. Additionally, study is underway, but it’s thought that 20–30% of those who identify as transgender may also have a Substance use disorder
The CDC reports that suicide was one of the top nine main causes of death for persons aged 10-64 in 2020 and the second highest cause of death for those aged 10–14 or 25–34.
It is far more probable for someone who identifies as LGBTQ+ to think about, plan, or actually attempt suicide. Youth who identify as LGBTQ+ are around four times as likely than their straight counterparts to attempt suicide.
How To Find The Right Mental Health Professional
There are important considerations when seeking LGBTQ+ affirming care.
These steps may help you find the right professional for you
Step 1: Decide What You want to gain From Therapy and from your therapist
Do you want the provider to share specific parts of their identity with you, i.e., a provider of the LGBTQ+ community
- Finding an affirming provider may simply mean that the provider is competency in LGBTQ+ issues. If you’re not looking for treatment specific to sexual orientation, identity, etc, you may not need to find someone who specializes in LGBTQ+ needs and may find that an affirming provider is sufficient
Step 2: Gather Referrals
Directories such as GoodTherapy.org and PsychologyToday.com offer a wide range of providers along with specifications.
- Call you insurance and ask for a provider list
- Use filters on directory websites to narrow your search
- Use LGBTQ websites, organizations and community groups as a source of referrals, information and guides.
- Participate or connect with:
- Local LGBTQI community centers
- Local LGBTQI health centers
- LGBTQI community groups such as equality groups, health collectives, social organizations, support groups
Step 3: Make the Call
Many people find that first call difficult, but remember, the therapist on the other end of that phone understands the courage it takes to make that call! If you need help, you can always send an email, sometimes even a text message, to providers to make that initial contact. Don’t forget to ask family, friends or trusted loved ones to help you out.
Step 4: Ask the Questions
It is hard to ask those difficult questions, and can maybe feel like an interview when you make the first call. But your mental health is important, and providers expect and welcome questions from their clients. It gives you and the provider an opportunity to understand what is important for treatment. Be forthright about your questions and needs and in the fact that you are looking for an LGBTQI competent provider.
- Some helpful questions may be:
- My identity is ______.
- What experience do you have working with people with that identity?
- What experience do you have with the LGBTQI community?
- Do you have any specific training or certifications that relate to working with LGBTQI clients?
There is no shame in seeking treatment. If you are experiencing mental health challenges, reach out.
Our team of mental health specialists at Mind by Design Counseling is trained to provide safe and inclusive therapy to all people regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity.
You are not alone.
Speak to one of our providers today!