LGBTQ+: Therapy and Mental Health Needs
Much like anyone, LGBTQ+ persons find themselves in need of therapy, for a variety of reasons. These reasons might be matters primarily associated with their specific sexual or romantic orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, or they may be mental health concerns or other life questions common amongst many people. Perhaps some are actively engaged in an exploratory or coming out process and looking for support or guidance in that journey. Sexuality or gender identity itself may not be a source of distress, but experiencing associated social stigma or subtle discrimination can create chronic stress that affects mental, emotional, spiritual, and physical well-being. Whatever the reason for seeking therapy, working with a therapist familiar with the daily realities and challenges of living as LGBTQ+ helps enhance the therapeutic experience and outcome.
It may be helpful to note what the LGBTQ+ acronym represents: lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (or questioning) identities, with the + sign conveying additional identities, such as intersex or asexual. The transgender
group also includes those who identify as gender neutral or non-binary, that is, a gender identity that extends beyond
the conventional gender binary. The sexual and gender identity spectrum encompasses a tremendous diversity!
Highlighting mental health issues and needs, statistics tell a striking story about the reality of living as a sexual or
gender minority. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) notes that lesbian, gay, or bisexual adults are twice as likely as are heterosexual adults to encounter mental or psychological health conditions (NAMI). As well, one in three LGBTQ+ adults deal with mental illness as compared to one in five heterosexual adults (HRC Foundation, 2017). Further, LGBTQ+ individuals experience a higher risk than the general population for suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.
LGBTQ+ youth are especially vulnerable, even though sociocultural acceptance of diverse sexual and gender minorities is growing. Harassment, discrimination, and stigmatization exist for many, whether at home, in the hallways of their schools, or other contexts, sometimes in subtler but nonetheless damaging forms. Experiencing discrimination, bullying, or social rejection based on sexual or gender identity and gender expression,
or perceived sexual or gender identity increases risk of depression, suicidal thoughts, or suicide attempts.
LGBTQ+ youth are much more likely than non-LGBTQ+ youth to face bullying or discrimination. Those identifying as LGBTQ+ are twice as likely to feel suicidal and four times more likely than heterosexual peers to attempt suicide
(HRC Foundation, 2017). In particular, transgender youth experience greater challenges to their mental health and
well-being. They are four times more likely than are their non-transgender peers to experience depression, while a
third have seriously considered suicide and one in five has attempted suicide (HRC Foundation, 2017).
Clearly, the LGBQT+ community deals with significant mental health and wellbeing challenges. Given this reality, what helps? Protective factors, such as supportive family, friends, or mentors, and accepting, safe environments –home, school, workplaces, church – strengthen psychological health and deepen resilience. Access to affirming and well-informed professional therapeutic and medical care provides vitally important resources for wholeself health and healing needs. Beyond this, awareness and advocacy efforts for mental health needs and social change are essential for empowerment and overall improved quality of life.
As a queer/non-binary person and therapist, I feel passionate about serving and advocating for the whole-self wellbeing and mental health needs of the LGBTQ+ community. I’m so grateful to be a part of an affirming practice where I have the opportunity and privilege to provide this much-needed service to clients of all ages in this area!
Human Rights Campaign (HRC) Foundation (2017).
Mental health and the LGBTQ community. https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/LGBTQ_MentalHealth_OnePager.pdf
NAMI (2019). www.nami.org/Find-Support/LGBTQTags: LGBTQ+ acronym, LGBTQ+: Therapy and Mental Health Needs, Mental health issues and needs for LGBTQ+
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Licensed Independent Mental Health Practitioner
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