June is Pride month, an opportunity to acknowledge and celebrate the lives and contributions of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer/questioning, intersex, and asexual (LGBTQIA+) community.
While the dancing and colorful festivities are a wonderful way to celebrate, it’s also an opportunity to shine a light on the unique challenges members of this community face, particularly when it comes to their mental health and well-being.
Facing and managing daily inequities can take a toll on mental health, and a person who identifies as LGBTQIA+ may have emotional wounds stemming from early life shame or guilt around their sexuality or gender identity. Of course this is in addition to the challenges and traumas – and love and loss – that we all inevitably face as humans.
Unique identities come with unique challenges
While the full range of sexual and gender identities are not often included in large mental health studies, research shows that members of the LGBTQIA+ community are at a higher risk for experiencing mental health challenges, particularly depression and anxiety.
- Lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults are more than twice as likely as heterosexual adults to experience a mental health condition.
- Transgender individuals are nearly four times as likely as cisgender individuals to experience a mental health condition.
- LGB youth are more than twice as likely to report experiencing persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness than their heterosexual peers.
- Transgender youth are at particular risk and are twice as likely to experience depressive symptoms, seriously consider suicide, and attempt suicide compared to cisgender lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and questioning youth.
What are the risk factors for LGBTQIA+ mental health?
While we all experience events in our lives that can put us at risk for a mental health challenge or crisis, the LGBTQIA+ community often faces unique experiences that can negatively affect their mental health.
- Trauma/bullying. Experiencing discrimination, bias, or hate due to one’s identity can be traumatic, and members of the LGBTQIA+ community can experience stereotyping, labeling, denial of access or opportunities, and violence. In fact, this community is one of the most targeted for hate crimes. Experiencing this type of discrimination can have significant impacts on mental health, including an increased risk for post-traumatic stress disorder.
- Coming out. Expressing one’s authentic sexual or gender identity to family, friends, colleagues, and the world can be a scary and overwhelming moment for someone who identifies as LGBTQIA+. There is a risk of negative reactions and, for someone who doesn’t have the social support, it can be a very isolating experience. Even if an individual is surrounded by positivity and allies, the journey to a fully expressed life can be a lonely one.
- Inadequate mental health resources. Sometimes the mental health community lumps all LGBTQIA+ individuals together regardless of their unique situation. Or worse, the needs of this community are not considered at all. Additionally, other identity factors such as race or socioeconomic status can impact the quality of – or access to – care.
Sunstone is your ally
At Sunstone we celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community and recognize the joy, love, and strength of their lives and experiences. We also acknowledge that this community faces unique complexities that can make life challenging.
That’s why we have a compassionate team of dedicated counselors to support the varying needs of the LGBTQIA+ community. Our counselors employ a unique approach that focuses not only on acceptance of who an individual is, but also the integration of their sexuality or gender identity into their life and relationships.
In many cases, our LGBTQIA+ therapists are either LGBTQIA+ themselves or have family members or friends who are, giving them an intimate view and understanding of the challenges this community faces.
So while we all celebrate the LGBTQIA+ community this month (and all year) with food, fun, and festivities, remember to check in on your own mental health, as well as family members and loved ones who may identify as LGBTQIA+. Sunstone stands with this community and is here, ready to guide you on your journey to a brighter tomorrow.
We hope you’ll join several of our staff and counselors on June 4 at the Loudoun Pride festival, with proceeds benefiting the Loudoun LGBTQ+ Community Center.