Everyone has a sexual orientation and gender identity. Sexual orientation is who you are physically attracted to. Gender identity is the internal sense of being male, female, both or neither, which is separate from your biological sex. People who have a different sexual orientation or gender identity from most people fall under the term LGBTQ. Although being LGBTQ is absolutely not a mental illness, many LGBTQ people experience mental health struggles.
Today there is more awareness of LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning) issues, and more advocacy on their behalf than ever. Yet there remains a tremendous amount of stigma and outright hatred directed toward the LGBTQ community, making it very difficult and sometimes painful to navigate life as a LGBTQ person.
Those who identify as LGBTQ are not genetically more likely to experience mental illness, but fear of discrimination and abuse along with the stress of coming out and being accepted within families and communities which make them more vulnerable to mental health struggles.
Suicide risk is of particular concern for the LBGTQ community, especially among LBGTQ youth aged 10-24. They are 4 times as likely to die by suicide and 3 times as likely to experience suicidal thoughts, or self-harm. Transgender individuals are also at increased risk.
Why Is LGBT Health Important?
Eliminating LGBT health disparities and enhancing efforts to improve LGBT health are necessary to ensure that LGBT individuals can lead long, healthy lives. The many benefits of addressing health concerns and reducing disparities include:
· Reductions in disease transmission and progression
· Increased longevity
· Increased mental and physical well-being
· Reduced health care costs
Why do members of the LGBTQ community have more mental health concerns?
Members of the LGBTQ community may
Have to cope with stigma, discrimination, or violence
Have negative feelings about themselves because of their sexual orientation or gender identity
Feel isolated or lonely
Feel that they must hide their sexual orientation or gender identity.
What are the most common LGBTQ mental health issues?
According to the National Alliance On Mental Illness, the LBGTQ population is three times more likely to experience major depression or generalized anxiety, and is at higher risk of substance abuse and suicide.
Depression- Depression is when feelings of sadness, loss, guilt, or anger interfere with everyday life for long periods of time. Lesbian women are 2 times more likely and gay men are 3 times more likely to have depression compared to heterosexuals.
Substance abuse- Substance abuse refers to the unhealthy use of illegal or prescription drugs. Lesbian and bisexual women have higher rates of nicotine and alcohol use throughout their lives. Gay men are more likely to smoke and use stimulant drugs such as cocaine and methamphetamine.
Thinking about or attempting suicide- Depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress disorder, and substance abuse can all contribute to an increased risk of suicide. Over half of adolescent lesbian and bisexual women and nearly 3 in 10 adolescent gay and bisexual men have attempted suicide.
People around the world face violence and inequality—and sometimes torture, even execution—because of who they love, how they look, or who they are. Sexual orientation and gender identity are integral aspects of our selves and should never lead to discrimination or abuse.