Each one of us has a sexual orientation and a particular gender we like to identify ourselves with. Our sexual orientation is who we want to get romantically or physically involved with, while our gender identity is what we perceive ourselves as – whether it is a male, female, both, or neither of them. It is particularly important to note that the way one identifies their gender is different from what genital organs they were born with. An inability to understand the difference between the two is what leads to the constant bullying and struggle the LGBTQIA+ community has to go through. If you’re asking how mental health affects the LGBTQIA+ Community, this is how.
Mental Health Conditions in the LGBTQIA+ Community
The LGBTQIA+ community is known to struggle through a lot after disclosing themselves to the community, and this leads to high levels of Mental health and conditions and struggles that these individuals have to suffer through. The younger members of the LGBTQIA+ community are the ones at the greatest amount of risk of depression and other mental health conditions due to their fragile age and the lack of self-confidence that they possess compared to some of the older members.
The reason for growing mental health conditions in the members of the LGBTQIA+ community is because of the constant bullying, harassment, and discrimination they have to face every day of their lives from the non-accepting members of the society.
- According to a report released by the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network in 2013:
- At least 55 percent of the youth belonging from the LGBTQIA+ community feel unsafe at school because of the sexual orientation they belong to
- Almost 37% of the school-going youth feel unsafe because of their gender identity they express themselves with
- Verbal harassment was experienced by at least 74% of the LGBTQIA+ community because of their sexual orientation
- 55% of the individuals belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community have been verbally harassed because of their gender expression
- Physical harassment has been experienced by 17% of the LGBTQIA+ members due to their sexual preference
- 11% have been punched, kicked, or injured by a weapon due to their gender expression
The prevalence of mental health conditions in the transgender members of the LGBTQIA+ community was studied in a cross-sectional analysis. The study included almost 1000 transgender patients in a clinical care setup, whose electronic records were analyzed for the presence of any mental health condition. The results showed that out of 10,27- transgender patients, a total of 5,940 suffered through at least one mental health condition – making a total of 58%. Although these patients were at an increased risk for almost all the mental health disorders, as evaluated by their medical records, there were some more prevalent than the other. The increased risk of Major Depressive Disorder was almost 31% – making it the most prevalent condition, while that of Generalized Anxiety Disorder was nearly 12%. (1)
Discrimination due to any reason, whether it is race, language, culture, gender identity, or sexual orientation, can take a negative toll on one’s health and may even lead to suicidal thoughts.
This was further investigated in a study conducted on two hundred members of the LGBTQIA+ community that included gays, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, and people of color. They were then asked to fill a survey asking them about their experience of discrimination, racism, mental health disorders, and any suicidal thoughts they may have had. The results showed that the discrimination that these members of the LGBTQIA+ community undergo on a daily basis has a direct effect on the risk of suicidal thoughts. Hence, it was concluded in order to reduce the suicidal ideation within the members of the LGBTQIA+ community; the key area of control is the discrimination that they are put through. (2)
- Whether it is at school, college, or workplace, bullying is something the majority of the LGBTQIA+ community has to go through on a daily basis and can take a significant toll on their mental health.This was also investigated in a study involving 347 members of the LGBTQIA+ community that included lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender members of the community. College-going Participants were encouraged all across the United States to take part in an online survey about their experiences of being a victim of bullying n the past three months. The results of the survey showed that these college-going participants had to undergo four types of bullying, which included:
- Verbal Bullying
- Relational Bullying
- Physical Bullying
It was concluded that these incidences of bullying are directly related to a greater risk of depression amongst these individuals, and there was the need for college administration to take notice and stern action against the bullying that takes place in their premises. (3)
Can Support Lead to the Improvement of how Mental health Affects the LGBTQIA+ community?
The right amount of support from the right people can be very important for the mental health of the members of the LGBTQIA+ community, especially those who have just disclosed their sexual orientation or expressed their desire for new gender identification. The importance of support was further evaluated in a study conducted on 482 members of the LGBTQIA+ community, which include Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and queer members. The effects of Support from Comprehensive Community Mental Health Services were received by these individuals, and the caregiver and youth were interviewed at 6 and 12 months intervals. The results showed significant improvement across all variables, concluding that support can greatly improve the outcome of LGBTQIA+ youth. (4)
The Role of Health Care Professionals
While interviewing a patient at the hospital, the health professionals often fail to ask the patient what sexual orientation or gender preference these individuals belong to, and the nondisclosure of the identity of these LGBTQIA+ members can affect their access to health care.
To evaluate this further, a study was conducted evaluating the effects of disclosure and nondisclosure of the LGBTQIA+ community to their medical providers. A total of 206 individuals were made to fill a questionnaire about their health care access and the reason for disclosure and nondisclosure to their health professionals. It was seen that the reasons for individuals to hide their gender identity from their health provider include:
- The providers not asking about it themselves
- Internalized stigma
- Belief by some that health is not related to their LGBTQIA+ identity (5)
Hence, educating the LGBTQIA+ patients and making them comfortable enough to be completely transparent with the health provider, which will eliminate any health barrier these individuals might face.
The Bottom Line
If the LGBTQIA+ community are at a much higher risk for mental conditions like depression and anxiety as compared to other members of the society due to the bullying, harassment, and discrimination they are made to go through. Hence, it is very important to understand and evaluate in detail how mental health affects the LGBTQIA+ Community and what actions and changes can be made at every level to allow them to be comfortable in their own skin every time they step out of their house.
- Wanta JW, Niforatos JD, Durbak E, Viguera A, Altinay M. Mental Health Diagnoses Among Transgender Patients in the Clinical Setting: An All-Payer Electronic Health Record Study. Transgend Health. 2019 Nov 1;4(1):313-315. doi: 10.1089/trgh.2019.0029. PMID: 31701012; PMCID: PMC6830528.
- Sutter, M., & Perrin, P. B. (2016). Discrimination, mental health, and suicidal ideation among LGBTQ people of color. Journal of Counseling Psychology, 63(1), 98–105. https://doi.org/10.1037/cou0000126
- Moran, TE, Chen, CYC, Tryon, GS. Bully victimization, depression, and the role of protective factors among college LGBTQ students. J Community Psychol. 2018; 46: 871– 884. https://doi.org/10.1002/jcop.21978
- Kirstin R. Painter, Maria Scannapieco, Gary Blau, Amy Andre & Kris Kohn (2018) Improving the Mental Health Outcomes of LGBTQ Youth and Young Adults: A Longitudinal Study, Journal of Social Service Research, 44:2, 223-235, DOI: 10.1080/01488376.2018.1441097
- Kinton Rossman, Paul Salamanca & Kathryn Macapagal (2017) A Qualitative Study Examining Young Adults’ Experiences of Disclosure and Nondisclosure of LGBTQ Identity to Health Care Providers, Journal of Homosexuality, 64:10, 1390-1410, DOI: 10.1080/00918369.2017.1321379