Issues, Services, and How You Can Help
By George Kite
For people in the LGBTQ community, mental health is something more visible and more worrying. Social ostracization, family issues, gender dysmorphia, and other internal conflicts can create environments where LGBTQ people are more susceptible to anxiety, depression, drug addiction, and suicide. According to the National LGBT Health Education Center, 42% of LGB youth have had suicidal thoughts, compared to the 10% average. Among transgender youth, 50% of men, 30% of women, and 42% of non-binary have attempted sucide.
Easy access to mental health services is the most pressing need for LGBTQ mental health. Everyone in the LGBTQ community should have access to a certified therapist, whether they are struggling with mental health or not. However, because therapy can be difficult to get, especially if someone doesn’t have health insurance, other mental health services also need to be addressed.
One of the best hotlines for crisis and suicide help is The Trevor Project (1-886-488-7386). This hotline will put you in contact with someone who can talk with you and discuss anything critical, whether it be you’re worried you’ll be kicked out of your house, struggling with suicidal thoughts, or feel in danger about something. They also have texting help (text START to 678678) and online chat room help. If you’re looking for a more local hotline, the LGBT Switchboard of New York (212-989-0999) can provide support for people specifically in New York City, though it only operates during weekdays from 4pm to midnight and Saturday afternoons.
Another important aspect to LGBTQ mental health is staying supported by your fellow folks. While there are plenty of opportunities, organizations, resources, and clubs for LGBTQ people, sometimes there can be difficulties getting started or joining them, especially for someone who is in the closet or still uncomfortable with themself. A great resource to find somewhere to go is the GLBT Resource Database (www.glbtnearme.org). It allows you to put in a ZIP code, specify how many miles you want to search around that ZIP, and it gives you a plethora of all of things LGBTQ in that area. This ranges from HIV/AIDS testing, transgender healthcare, LGBTQ-friendly churches, lawyers, and businesses, and much more.
But perhaps one of the most, if not the most important things for LGBTQ mental health, is support from peers. Having friends that support your sexual orientation or gender identity is key to having good mental health. This is important for LGBTQ people, in that you need to make sure you’re surrounded by people who care about your well-being in your sexual orientation or gender identity. But this is also important for straight and cisgender people, who need to recognize that being supporting friends of LGBTQ people does a lot to help their mental health. For so many LGBTQ people, they’ve more likely than not experienced negative and hostile things in their families, friend groups, schools, religious communities, sports teams, and many other facets of their lives. Higher mental health issues among LGBTQ people are because of societal hostilities towards them, because they live in a world which sees their non-conformity as different or wrong. You, as a friend to LGBTQ person, help create a more loving world for them. That is the most you can do.
Life for LGBTQ people can be difficult, when they face obstacles in living and expressing themselves when people, organizations, governments, and societies ignore or work against them. This takes a toll on the mental health of LGBTQ people. Thankfully, they are not alone, and there are people who work against the hurt that LGBTQ people experience.