June is Pride Month for the LGBTQI community. Pride Month is a great time to celebrate the wins for equality and acceptance.
But since Pride Month started as a protest movement, it’s also an appropriate time to talk about the potential risks that LGBTQI folks face and to discover some of the ways that everyone can help ensure a safe and accepting community for all.
Mental Health and the LGBTQI Community: The Challenge
As we’ve written about before in our blog, there is a well-documented history of mental health risk for LGBTQI folks. Multiple studies show that Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual people are more than twice as likely to experience a mental health condition than the rest of the population at large.
The National Alliance on Mental Illness explains, people who are Transgender “are nearly four times as likely as cisgender individuals (people whose gender identity corresponds with their birth sex) to experience a mental health condition.” That means that struggles with mental health are extremely common in the LGBTQ+ community—particularly depression and anxiety.
Rejection by family members, employers, peers, and others plays a major role in the prevalence of mental health concerns amongst LGBTQ people. A Pew Research survey found that 40% of LGBTQ+ adults surveyed reported “that at some point in their lives they were rejected by a family member or close friend because of their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
A more recent study found that “suicide risk was three to six times greater for lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults than for heterosexual adults across every age group and race/ethnicity category.”
Among gay and bisexual men,
- 12% to 17% had thought about taking their lives in the past year,
- 5% had made a suicide plan,
- 2% had made a suicide attempt.
Among lesbian or gay women and bisexual women,
- 11% to 20% had thoughts of suicide,
- 7% had made a suicide plan,
- 3% had made a suicide attempt.
Amongst the Transgender community the statistics are even more alarming. A research study by UCLA found that “around 40% of transgender adults have attempted suicide in their lifetimes and that 30% of transgender youth have attempted suicide in the past year.” The study concludes that
“Those rejected by their spouses or children, families of origin, or religious communities had a higher prevalence of past-year suicide thoughts and attempts.”
All of this research points to a major point of intervention that can help the overall mental health of the LGBTQ community and reduce suicide risk–a solution that can save lives.
Affirming Care for the LGBTQI Community: The Solution
For most LGBTQI folks, a struggle with fundamental parts of their identity is a common trait. A battle often rages between who an individual knows himself to be and the expectations of their family, community, or church. This alone contributes in very substantial ways to the challenges we discussed above.
Combine these identity challenges with frequent rejection and with ongoing violence (both physical and emotional) that LGBT folks are subjected to, and instances of depression, anxiety, PTSD, eating disorders, and other disordered thinking become easier to understand.
This is why Galen Hope practices, and advocates for affirming care practices.
According to the World Health Organization Gender-affirming care encompasses a range of social, psychological, behavioral, and medical interventions “designed to support and affirm an individual’s gender identity” when it conflicts with the gender they were assigned at birth. The interventions help transgender people align various aspects of their lives — emotional, interpersonal, and biological — with their gender identity. The American Psychiatric Association (APA) explains that identity can run anywhere along a continuum that includes man, woman, a combination of those, neither of those, and fluid.
For us, affirming care means understanding the role that gender and sexual identity plays in the lived experiences of those around us. It also means making a concerted effort to appreciate an individual for who they are and to actively work to make them comfortable in their lives and bodies.
Unfortunately, some LGBTQ folks experience very traumatic experiences in mental health treatment. These include wholly destructive ideas such as conversion therapy, shunning, or rejection of lived experience. But traumas may also include less insidious (but no less painful) treatment like a refusal to use the patient’s proper pronouns or chosen name in conversation.
For this Pride Month, we would like to envision a world where rejection, fear, and a lack of human compassion to longer drive our LGBTQ friends to suicide. We wish to envision a world where the traumatic lived experiences of LGBTQ folks no longer contribute to mental health and eating disorders. We wish to envision a world in which everyone is wholly accepted for who they fundamentally are.
Here are some affirming behaviors that we can ALL adopt right away
- Use inclusive language free from gender binaries
- Use another person’s pronouns, or gender-neutral ones if you don’t know for certain.
- Understand how intersectionality impacts everyone. We are all members of multiple categories of human, and those points of intersection matter
- Be aware of racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia, and ableism and how your words may impact others even in ways you did not intend
- Be actively and deliberately accepting
- Be proactively affirming of gender identity, sexual preference, and any other parts of a person’s self.
- Be inclusive in hiring—representation matters
For our LGBTQ friends–we see you. We stand with you. And we wish you a very happy Pride Month.
THE ROAD TO WELLNESS STARTS BY SEEKING HELP. TODAY.
Built on the principles of assertive community treatment, Galen Hope is an eating disorder and mental health treatment center offering individualized treatment options that include Intensive Outpatient (IOP) and Partial Hospitalization Programs (PHP). As a “Community of Integrated Wellness,” we pride ourselves in fostering a thoughtful and meaningful care experience that can guide our clients on their road to recovery and increased quality of life, regardless of diagnosis. Galen Hope currently offers separate, age-specific programming for female and transfeminine adolescents ages 12-17 and adults 18 and up, as well as a gender-specific programming for males and transmasculine individuals with eating disorders and primary mental health diagnoses.
To learn more, or to join our community for integrated wellness, please contact us today.
Belong. Heal. Grow.