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Exposing Mental Health Disparities for LGBTQ: Understanding the Gaps and Seeking Solutions

 a gay man

Understanding LGBTQ Mental Health Challenges

When it comes to mental health challenges, individuals that are a part of the LGBTQ+ community experience higher levels of emotional distress due to stigmatization, discrimination, inequality, bullying, and violence. Due to trauma and stress, mental health concerns are more commonly found it this community, particularly among transgender adults and youth.

Poor mental health outcomes such as higher rates of depression symptoms, anxiety disorders, and suicidal behaviors are a significant concern, and yet on top of this, people of the LGBTQ+ community must also contend with a number of barriers to mental health services.

Barriers to Mental Health Services

Some common barriers that LGBTQ+ individuals face in accessing mental health services, include discrimination, lack of cultural competence, and inadequate healthcare provider training. LGBTQ+ healthcare providers often lack a true understanding of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender specific mental health challenges, which can lead to poor mental health outcomes.

Mental health challenges faced by people exploring gender identity or sexual orientation may go unaddressed because they do not have access to services. This can be financial (they may have been kicked out of their home and are struggling), or because they are still under the control of parents who do not allow them to seek these services. And even those who seek help may not find a therapist who is gay, bisexual, or transgender affirming. LGBT mental health is a subsection of psychology that needs to see greater growth.

The Impact of Minority Stress on LGBTQ Mental Health

People who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (and others like asexual, pansexual, etc.), are part of a sexual minority, and therefore subject to minority stress. Minority stress refers to chronic stress experienced by sexual and gender minorities due to discrimination, stigma, and marginalization.

People who experience this kind of discrimination may face larger forms of trauma, such as bullying, rejection, and being at particular risk for hate crime. Sexual minorities are also subject to microaggressions, such as contemptuous looks, cruel comments, negative attitudes, and being nudged out of public spaces.

The Effects of Minority Stress on LGBTQ Individuals

Dealing with minority stress on top of the regular stress of living contributes to higher rates of mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders in LGBT individuals. Many LGBTQ youth must deal with rejection from family members, and those who are exploring gender identity are often refused transgender care and gender affirming mental health care. Transgender adults have often missed living a large part of their life as their true selves due to a lack of acceptance.

LGBT identity acceptance is also lacking in greater society. The LGBT community often struggle with mental health problems and substance abuse as a result of social isolation, discrimination, and internalized homophobia.

Mental Health Disparities in LGBTQ Sub-Communities

Mental Health Challenges in Transgender Individuals and Gender Identity

Transgender individuals experience higher rates of depression symptoms and suicide attempts compared to non-transgender individuals, even higher than other sexual minority adults. If mental health support systems are lacking for lesbian, gay, and bisexual people, it is exponentially worse for transgender people.

Discrimination is a significant risk factor for depression and suicide in transgender adults, who also lack certain protective factors that the the rest of the sexual minority group have only recently acquired. As lesbian, gay, bisexual individuals have gained a small level of acceptance in the wider society, many groups have started targeting people who are exploring gender identity with greater levels of vitriol. Transgender identity can be fraught with levels of bullying and a lack of social support that lead to mental health challenges for many.

Mental Health Challenges in LGBTQ People of Color

Another subset of minority sexuality, LGBTQ people of color experience higher levels of minority stress due to discrimination based on their race, ethnicity, gender identity, and/or sexual orientation. The stressors pile up when you add widespread and pervasive systemic racism to the discrimination faced for sexual orientation or gender identity. Continual exposure to trauma can lead to mental health challenges such as anxiety, depression, or post-traumatic stress disorder.

Disparities in mental health access are even more pronounced in LGBTQ people of color, with limited access to culturally competent mental health practitioners.

Improving Mental Health Care for LGBTQ Individuals

The statistics are sobering, but what can be done to address the mental health crisis for those who identify as gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals? For one, healthcare providers should provide training on LGBTQ+-specific mental health concerns, and improve cultural competence to provide effective health care for this population.

Just as important is ensuring that mental health resources such as counseling, therapy, and support groups are available for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. Increasing access to these types of mental health resources is essential to reducing mental health care challenges among LGBTQ youth and the greater LGBTQ community.

Groups like the Human Rights Campaign Foundation and the Trevor Project are actively working to meet the mental health needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals. Support for these, and other nonprofits that offer mental health resources and health care to the LGBTQ community can help stem the tide of the current mental health crisis.

In conclusion:

  • Mental health care disparities are a continuing are a significant concern for LGBTQ individuals, with higher risk of mental health concerns found in lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people, as well as poorer mental health outcomes in general due to lack of appropriate health care.
  • Gender identity, sexual orientation, and the mental health challenges around these should be widely studied and understood by providers. Poor mental health care for certain populations is unacceptable with the level of knowledge researchers have around these issues.
  • Healthcare providers, policymakers, and community leaders should work together to increase access to culturally competent mental health services that address minority stress to improve LGBTQ mental health outcomes.

Gender Identity and LGBT Mental Health Care in Brooklyn

Mental health issues around sexual orientation or gender identity are common due to discrimination, health disparities, unfair treatment, and lack LGBT identity acceptance in the general population. The right kind of therapy with an affirming therapist can help.

At Williamsburg Therapy Group our team of doctoral-level Brooklyn psychotherapists offer evidence-based treatments that affirm lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender individuals across the board.

Give us a call today and our patient coordinator will help you find the therapist that makes you feel comfortable, and can offer tools to help manage stress, foster self acceptance, cope with life challenges, and improve mental health overall. 

Book a Therapy Session in Brooklyn Today

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