Mental Health and LGBTQIA+: Caring For Yourself in 2021

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Mental health is thankfully being more discussed than ever before, and the stigma surrounding therapy and mental health as a whole is lessening, but it still has a long way to go. Mental health in general is still massively underfunded, meaning that those who do not have access to private funds and private services are often left to the wayside, and that isn’t even taking into account LGBTQIA+ mental health challenges.

Those within the LGBTQIA+ community are at greater risk of poor mental health, often due to societal pressure and outright discrimination. Pressure can even come from within due to internalized hatred, body dysmorphia, and comorbid mental health conditions. 

Caring for your mental health has been an echoing call to action from all people, but improving your own routine and well-being is only the start. We need more specialists from within the community, greater discourse into mental health and LGBTQIA+, and more support and services to help provide an accessible, accepting environment throughout our societies. 

Mental Health and LGBTQIA+ Statistics 

LGBTQIA+ community has come very far, but the distance to go is still substantial. In a 2015 survey, 34% of responding youth experienced bullying at their school, 18% of respondents experienced physical or dating violence, 18% of respondents have experienced sexual assault, and around 10% were threatened or injured with a weapon while attending school. 

All of these events can cause severe, lasting trauma in youths that can and often do persist into adulthood. 

On average, LGBTQIA+ youth are 1.75 times more likely to experience anxiety or depression. For trans and non-binary youth, who are 2.4 times more likely to experience anxiety or depression, that figure is far higher. 

For LGBTQIA+ youth, trauma does not just occur at home, with 16% of respondents feeling unsafe at home. 

Nearly 1 in 4 of these youth are unable to access mental health care. There are many reasons for this, from not enough clinical health specialists, to a lack of affordable care options. These issues extend for adults as well. 

Social media, though a huge factor in helping youth discover themselves by finding their community online, also has negative setbacks, making it a poor resource. Though it is a poor resource that has consistently been cited to exacerbate mental health conditions and issues, it is still one of the best options to help improve visibility and to help youth and even adults find others with shared life experience. 

Safeguarding your mental health is just one step. We as a society need more clinical mental health specialists and societal support in general, and specifically for those in the LGBTQIA+ community. 

Safeguarding Mental Health and Well-Being: Advice from the Community 

When it comes to trying out tips and advice, it’s always important to adopt a trial and error approach. Even if advice seems sound and you completely agree with it, it may not provide the benefits you need to lead a healthier, happier life. Moreover, working to improve your mental health on your own is only one side. Most will require additional professional support, but that does not mean that working to improve your life by making key changes on your own won’t help. In fact, working on improving your mental health with these two approaches in mind can provide you with the best results. 

Dr. Monica Lyn, a clinical psychologist, and a proudly identifying Black queer woman, recommends seeking pleasure and setting boundaries. By saying no to both things and people that do not empower you, affirm your existence, or nourish you, you are setting healthy boundaries that can substantially help improve your mental health. She also recommends finding a community within the LGBTQIA+ community, which can be “life-sustaining”. 

Finding and building this network of support, in fact, is one of the most consistent pieces of advice. The support you find amongst friends and family, however, should never be the only support you obtain for yourself. Mental health resources are there to help when your mental health, stress, and burdens become too big for your friends to comfortably help. 

Seeking Out Support

The reason why seeking out mental health support from professionals is so important goes beyond accessing professional care. That is the first and primary reason why clinical mental health services are important. The second reason is that those around you, particularly those within the LGBTQIA+ community, are often also dealing with their own struggles. Ensuring that you have professional support means that you can rely on your friends without overloading their plates. 

It can be incredibly dangerous to have only one person who you rely on, as this puts a substantial amount of pressure on that one person. While a therapist is certainly more capable of being this person, having friends and a community who understand and accept who you are is equally as important. 

Being honest with yourself and accepting of yourself is also a key part to improving your mental health. Acceptance can involve anything, from wearing clothes that affirm your gender and identity, all the way to being honest about who you are attracted to. If you find it difficult to make yourself a safe space, then therapists can be a great way to help you unpick the internalized shame and can help you overcome the setbacks that are stopping you from accepting who you are. 

Getting Help for Comorbid Disorders 

Substance abuse and addiction is often a comorbid condition that many with depression or anxiety suffer with, and improving your mental health often means improving your physical health and picking apart your substance use condition as well. 

This can mean that you may need more than one type of specialist to help build a support system that works. 

From eating disorders to body dysmorphia to substance use disorders, there is a myriad of external issues that can exacerbate your mental health, especially if the symptoms are a response to the anxiety you feel at home or because of discrimination you feel. 

It can be tricky to unpick cause and effect and to break these negative cycles to find a new, healthy you that embraces who you are. That said, with the right support and community, you can find the information, resources, and support necessary to get you there. 

Mental health, especially amongst the LGBTQIA+ community, can be hard to pick apart, but thanks to increasing resources, more visible influencers working to bring awareness about LGBTQIA+ identities, more are finding their community and support to make that first step towards a healthier future than ever before. 

The Need for More Clinical Mental Health Specialists 

One of the most deciding factors on how effective therapy is for a patient is the relationship between the patient and the therapist. Feeling like the specialist there to help does not understand you or what you are going through is one of the most effective roadblocks to healing and recovery, and as a result, more clinical health specialists from within the LGBTQIA+ community are an absolute must. 

Clinical mental health specialists can help their patients improve their lives by adopting new coping methods. In the process, it helps them develop functioning skills that can help throughout their lives. 

Specialists be able to help their patients analyze conflicts and crises throughout their patients’ lives, but they can also recognize, and therefore more confidently diagnose and treat both mental and emotional disorders. 

Becoming a clinical mental health specialist does require further training, but with the right degree, you will be fully prepared for licensure, have the full theory knowledge necessary, and in certain programs, guaranteed placement for your mandatory internship/site practicum experience. 

In the past, this may have been incredibly inaccessible, but with the rise of online degrees, and more importantly, digital education tools and platforms, a greater number of people can now study and train within mental health than ever before. You can even work while studying in many cases and therefore continue to support yourself while you make the transition. 

Being able to see others like you in a variety of job roles is critical for society. Moreover, connecting with mental health specialists can make drastic differences in quality of care and in the results patients see. 

In Conclusion

The best way to help those within the LGBTQIA+ community is to increase the number of clinical specialists from within this community. More patients be able to connect with their therapists. Also, the discourse surrounding mental health and LGBTQIA+ will improve. This discourse can create better treatment options. It also helps professionals across the board improve their understanding of the issues facing those within the LGBTQIA+. 

Bringing in LGBTQIA+ voices further into the research and development stages of mental health can help improve diagnosing. Furthermore, it can also completely transform the resources available for youth and adults alike online. 

Great strides have been made so far. That said, many more strides are needed before all members of the LGBTQIA+ feel accepted, mentally well, and healthy.

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Photo: www.rtor.org

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