Mental Health and the LGBTI Community
Staying in good mental health has always been a tough gig if you’re LGBTI and it certainly hasn’t got easier during COVID. Let’s explore what’s meant by good mental health, how the LGBTI community is doing, and how you can improve your mental wellbeing if you’re beginning to struggle.
What is mental health?
When you hear talk of mental health, it often immediately shifts to mental health conditions like depression and anxiety. While those are important topics, before we look at the complex picture of mental health in the gay and bisexual community, it’s worth identifying what good mental health truly means. What is it that we’re aiming for?
The World Health Organization defines mental health as:
“A state of well-being in which every individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a contribution to her or his community.”
Sounds good, doesn’t it? We’d all love to be in that sort of headspace. Unfortunately, it seems many of us are not.
Is LGBT mental health a problem?
Yes. According to LGBTIQ+ Australia’s 2021 mental health update, LGBTIQ+ people are more likely to experience poorer mental health outcomes and have a higher risk of suicidal behaviours than their heterosexual peers.
Beyond Blue agrees, stating that,
“Research and real life experiences have found that LGBTIQ+ people have an increased risk of depression and anxiety, substance abuse, self-harming and suicidal thoughts. When compared with heterosexual people, same-sex attracted and transgender people have higher psychological distress and significant levels of anxiety.”
Why is this? Both organisations recognise that it’s due to the ongoing stigma, prejudice, discrimination and abuse that many still face.
But you didn’t need us to tell you that, did you? It’s probably part of your lived experience, something you’ve faced on many occasions at school, at work, in your family or on the street.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America notes that 30-60% of LGBT people deal with anxiety and depression, a rate that’s 1.5-2.5 times higher than in the general community.
They look at what it’s like trying to be yourself in a wider environment that often isn’t accepting of that. It means you’re probably very good at reading a situation and deciding how much of yourself to reveal in order to avoid judgement, shame or ridicule, whether overt or subtle. It’s a form of minority stress.
“In response to an outside world full of negative messages about what it means to be attracted to people of the same sex or not cisgender, many people come to view themselves as deeply flawed, unlovable, unworthy, and hopeless.”
That’s the polar opposite of the WHO’s definition of good mental health that we read a few paragraphs above.
So, what can you do about it?
Mental health tips for gay and bisexual men
If you know you’re not in good spirits, are feeling flat, joyless or run down or are engaging in risk behaviours, then it’s time to take care of your mental health.
You can do that by:
- Recognising the signs of anxiety and depression – use this checklist if you’re not sure.
- Be very careful about your use of drugs or alcohol as these can worsen symptoms of anxiety and depression, slow down your recovery and create new issues for you to deal with on top of everything else.
- Find a healthcare professional who can help. Many different professionals help to treat anxiety and depression. If you’re not sure where to start, then talk to any healthcare professional you already know and trust or try to find a good GP (ask your friends who they see).
- Take hope from the fact that there are an increasing number of potential medical and psychological treatments you can try. It may take a bit of time but, with perseverance, you and your treatment team are likely to find an approach that makes life easier for you.
Connecting with others experiencing similar difficulties and learning from one another’s experiences. Beyond Blue has several online forums where you can connect with other LGBTIQ+ people or with others living with anxiety or depression
How can PrEP Health help?
While we don’t provide mental health care directly, we do provide accessible, judgement-free prescribing to help to reduce the risk of HIV transmission (acquiring HIV most definitely affects your mental health).
So, if you need help to protect yourself against HIV, sign up here to get started.
And if you’re struggling with your mental health, please call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636.
All information is general in nature. Patients should consider their own personal circumstances and seek a second opinion.