What Does Mental Health Look Like in the LGBTQIA+ Community?
Each June we celebrate Pride. This year, we want that celebration to include reflection. Our community is all about meeting people where they are and creating as many opportunities as possible for people to find connection and support. That means taking time to know and understand the unique mental health challenges facing distinct groups within our community. It means proudly declaring our support for all LGBTQIA+ people — both during Pride Month and especially throughout the rest of the year.
LGBTQIA+ communities have historically been among the most impacted by mental health challenges — in no small part due to the cultural stigmas and bias that have too long worked against LGBTQIA+ people. So, what exactly does mental health look like for this community? The numbers paint a powerful picture of the toll that lack of acceptance and unfounded vitriol can take, particularly among young LGBTQIA+ people.
Consider these Mental Health America reports:
• Approximately 4.5 % of the U.S. population identifies as lesbian, gay or bisexual
• Of that population, 39% reported experiencing mental illness
• That 39% represents nearly 5.8 million people, which is more than the entire population of Kentucky
• 59% of LGBTQIA+ adults feel they have fewer employment opportunities than their straight counterparts
• 51% of LGBTQIA+ people report that they or others in the community have experienced violence as a result of their sexuality or gender identity
The numbers are even more dire when we consider younger LGBTQIA+ populations:
• LGBTQIA+ teens are six times more likely to experience depression than their straight counterparts
• LGBTQIA+ teens are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide as compared to their straight peers
• Put another way, 48.6% of LGBTQIA+ high school students have serious thoughts of suicide
So, how do we better support our LGBTQIA+ peers? We accept them, we hold space for them, we hold others responsible for doing the same, and we acknowledge that their journey comes with its own unique challenges.
Let’s be very clear. Identifying as LGBTQIA+ is not a mental illness, but many LGBTQIA+ people experience mental health challenges. The entire community deserves a safe space where they can find comfort and support. That’s why WhiteFlag uses a peer-to-peer support model to create spaces for people to be seen, heard and to feel held. That unequivocally includes the LGBTQIA+ community.
This Pride Month — and beyond — show your support, work to end the stigma, and take time to check in with the people close to you. It only takes a few moments to ask, "you okay?"
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