The mental health of queer people is an issue that has been heavily under-researched and underrepresented in the media. This lack of adequate representation might lead to the misconception that queer people are “happy”.
Actually, the LGBTQ+ community is often ridiculed for having “the best mental health” – in terms of depression, suicide rate, self-identity development, stressors and challenges related to coming out or transitioning. This is because of the obvious and intense discrimination against them. It’s likely a result of concealing their sexual identities and living in fear.
Many members of the queer community have been touched by mental health issues at some point in their lives. Regrettably, many must face a stigma due to the society they live in. The experiences can be harsh, especially when they can not manage to meet with people who understand them or know how it feels to be discriminated against because of their sexual preferences or someone who can help.
The most apparent reason behind the mental health struggles is the discrimination, prejudice and social stigma. There are so many ways the queer community is discriminated against in our society. Sometimes it is the members of the community being denied fundamental human rights, sometimes it is using labels to clump all members together. Regardless of the medium, the queer community face discrimination both directly and indirectly.
It could be something as seemingly harmless as being called by the wrong pronoun in school or being told their sexuality or identity is disgusting or immoral. Or it could be something as painful and life-altering as feeling so hopeless and lost that nothing can save them anymore.
While things like a bad breakup, an addiction, monetary crisis, workplace disputes, loss of loved ones affect the mental health of queer people, things don’t really turn up for the better when you add things like increased familial conflicts, homelessness, the struggles of coming out, religious contradictions, stigma and victimization etc to the whole equation. It becomes even more challenging for the queer community to keep their mental health in mint condition. Being a member of the queer community can be a challenge. On top of coming out and facing a world that might not (readily) accept them and their choices, the members also suffer at the hands of discrimination.
Here is the real kicker, many people aren’t aware that being LGBTQ+ can have effects on their mental health in one way or another. Growing up, society teaches us what to be and how to act, to think. And because we are told that being queer is “wrong” or “immoral”, we give ourselves a hard time and believe that we are less likely to be accepted. Some even have a rocky road to accepting and understanding themselves. Coming to terms with being queer is made all the more difficult because of the toxic environment that surrounds them. But because of how we grow up in school and society, it varies from person to person.
We are taught that the LGBTQ+ community is sick and dirty, and many people still believe this even after coming out. Just because the LGBTQ+ community is constantly told how they are not acceptable, doesn’t mean that it’s true. We all have the right to be who we want to be and love whoever we want to love, no matter what society says. But all these issues create a long way to realizing this very fact.
Suicide rate is rising in the queer community due to the heavy school and online bullying and racism. LGBTQ+ youths are four times more likely to commit suicide than straight youths because they feel maltreated by the society. Because of this powerlessness, they often believe their families will abandon them if they come out, or they may have already been abandoned by their families upon knowing of their queerness.
The LGBTQ+ community is not always treated favorably in society due to a number of biases that come from not just the outside but even from the people within the community. Queer people are more predisposed to emotional, physical, sexual and verbal abuse. Hence, they have a higher rate of substance abuse, self-harm and suicide than those in heterosexual communities. While these statistics are more than sobering, what is even more troubling is that there have been very little research done to help explain this contrast or to advocate ways to improve the lives of queer individuals.
Whatever research has been done so far shows that LGBTQ people are more likely to abuse substances than their heterosexual counterparts, a trend that has been seen across cultures. One of the most coherent findings of research on mental health disparities is the presence of social stressors. It has been certified by researchers such as Bradford, Cochran, and Mays that social stressors for LGBTQ+ individuals result in higher levels of 7 psychological disorders including depression and anxiety.
The occurrence of social stress cannot be deemed as a surprise, considering that studies consistently show global discrimination against queer people. While the “woke” lot do recognize that discrimination against any minority group is in no way acceptable and should not be tolerated, it is still prevalent across many communities and cultures.
In the workplace, individuals who have disclosed their sexual orientation or gender identity are more likely to experience disrespectful and inappropriate treatment than those who have concealed this information from others at work. Studies have also put forward the idea that queer people are less likely to get hired for a job, even when they have equal qualifications as heterosexual candidates.
How long have we been saying that queer people should not be discriminated against? Decades. Yet it does not matter how long or how hard we’ve tried, the discrimination has not stopped. And it is time to stop being so obtuse and understand that it impacts their mental health profusely.
The queer community is an important demographic within mental health. Earlier in the 1900s, queer individuals were subjected to conversion therapies, which are still being used today to “cure” homosexuality. In many countries, homosexuality is still considered a disease. Due to this harsh history within the queer community and general society, queer individuals have an unreservedly higher risk of struggling with mental illness than the average heterosexual and/or cis population.
Mental health is as important for a queer person as it is for the next person. But they are targeted more because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. People of this community suffer from anxiety, depression, and other mental illness at the same rate as people who do not identify as part of this community but they experience higher rates of suicide due to the difficulties they face in life and also the poorer support, medical attention or intervention they receive.
If you’re a member of the LGBTQ community, you probably already know that there can be a lot of discrimination out there. Whether it’s with family, friends, co-workers or even just walking down the street, it can be hard to know you’re safe from judgment no matter where you are or what you’re doing. This community deals with a lot and has been doing since the very beginning of time.