LGBT people have experienced dehumanizing aggression associated with our mental health. For decades we have been diagnosed, medicated, and treated on the misconception that our sexual and gender identities and expressions were mental illnesses.
Thus stigmatized, it is often challenging to address the concerns we face on a regular basis. In short, we become too familiar with the question, “Am I crazy?” And sometimes, this feeling is reinforced by our sense that bystanders are watching our mistreatment with little or no interest in addressing it; we then walk around questioning whether anyone else notices.
It is little wonder then that the data about LGBT mental health are appalling. LGBT youth and adults are significantly more likely to feel depressed, to feel anxious, and to think about suicide than our heterosexual peers. For teens especially, these issues are highly associated with school and community bullying. However, bullying is but one obvious example of the stressors that contribute to these differences from our heterosexual peers.
Even national campaigns for teens that are intended to address anti-gay discrimination often suggest that they just hold on until the bullying stops, or they can move away, or seek support on-line.
Mental health for LGBT people can best be addressed when we devote energy not only to addressing its symptoms, but when we also address its sources.
Considerations to foster and support mental health for LGBT people include a basic understanding of our human needs:
- Are we fully accepted as humans and community assets?
- Are our human rights for respect and affiliation being defended?
- Do we have adequate resources to meet our daily needs and our reasonable expectations for safety?
- Can we play, work, learn and love in supportive and inclusive environments?
- Are systems in place to find competent and effective care when we need it?
- Is the stigma associated with asking for help greatly reduced or eliminated?
- Do we know what to do when our friends and others are vulnerable, even feeling suicidal?
Learn more about our programs related to mental health: