By Rohan Arora

In contemporary society, the LGBTQIA+ community —encompassing lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer or questioning, intersex, asexual, and other identities— faces unique mental health challenges. Despite some progress in legal recognition, the imperative for enhanced mental healthcare within this community remains unequivocal. However, it’s paramount to grasp that identifying as LGBTQ+ does not constitute a mental illness or disorder. Instead, it’s a fundamental aspect of someone’s identity that can make them more susceptible to mental health issues, stemming from discrimination, social stigma, and a lack of understanding and acceptance.

Discrimination and Minority Stress

Discrimination against LGBTQIA+ individuals persists in various forms, including legal, social, and institutional. This discrimination contributes to minority stress, a chronic stress experienced by marginalized groups due to their minority status. Constant exposure to discrimination, microaggressions, and exclusionary practices has led to profound mental health issues within the LGBTQIA+ community. Due to such othering, bullying, and internalized homophobia or transphobia, LGBTQ+ individuals are nearly three times more likely to develop a mental health disorder such as depression or anxiety.

Social Stigma and Isolation

Social stigma surrounding non-heteronormative identities frequently causes feelings of shame, guilt, and self-doubt among LGBTQIA+ individuals. The fear of rejection from family, friends, and society can lead to social isolation and a reluctance to seek support or disclose one’s identity. This isolation worsens mental health concerns and hinders access to appropriate care.

Lack of Cultural Competence in Healthcare

Many healthcare providers, including mental health platforms, often lack cultural competence in addressing the specific needs of LGBTQIA+ individuals. This deficiency can result in inadequate or inappropriate care, worsening mental health disparities. LGBTQIA+ inclusive healthcare necessitates that providers comprehend the intricacies of sexual orientation, gender identity, and the effects of minority stress on mental well-being.

Intersectionality and Multiple Minority Stress

Intersectionality, which recognises the interdependence of social identities such as race, gender, and sexual orientation, complicates mental health inequities in the LGBTQIA+ population. LGBTQIA+ people who identify with other marginalized groups, such as people of color or people with disabilities, face intersecting forms of discrimination and heightened stresses, which increases their risk of mental health problems.

Suicidality and Self-Harm

LGBTQIA+ people are more likely to commit suicide or self-harm. Notably, LGBTQ+ teenagers between the ages of 10 and 24 are four times as likely than their peers to attempt suicide. Bullying, rejection by family or classmates, and internalized stigma all contribute considerably to emotions of hopelessness and despair. Suicide and self-harm continue to disproportionately afflict this population in the absence of adequate support and focused mental health interventions.

Trauma and Violence

LGBTQ+ individuals face a significantly higher risk, being nine times more likely, of encountering trauma and violence, which encompasses intimate partner violence, hate crimes, and sexual assault, compared to non-LGBT individuals. These traumatic incidents often have enduring repercussions on mental health, potentially resulting in conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), substance abuse, and other adverse outcomes when appropriate mental healthcare interventions are lacking.

Workplace Inequality

In the workplace, LGBTQ+ individuals often face challenges regarding authenticity and acceptance. Many feel unable to come out, compromising their ability to be themselves in an environment where they spend a major part of their day. Research shows that 46 per cent of LGBTQIA+ individuals have experienced unfair treatment at work, directly impacting their mental well-being. Additionally, 50 per cent of LGBTQIA+ people believe they are paid less than their non-LGBTQIA+ counterparts, exacerbating these challenges and affecting overall productivity and well-being.

It’s therefore crucial for organizations of all sizes to take proactive steps to normalize the experiences of LGBTQ+ employees and foster an environment of acceptance and support. Even if employees are not open about their sexual orientation or gender identity, creating a safe and welcoming workplace where they can thrive is essential. This can be achieved through initiatives such as allyship training and mental health workshops aimed at reducing stigma and providing LGBTQ+ individuals with access to safe spaces.

Conclusion

The need to improve mental healthcare for the LGBTQIA+ community is urgent and multifaceted, requiring a comprehensive understanding of the intersectionality between sexual orientation, gender identity, and mental health, along with targeted interventions to address discrimination, stigma, and barriers to care. Advocating for policy reforms, promoting cultural competence in healthcare, and fostering inclusive and affirming environments are essential steps toward reducing mental health disparities and ensuring equitable access to care for all members of the LGBTQIA+ community. These efforts can yield tangible results; for instance, study indicates that LGBTQ+ young people who have access to affirming homes, schools, communities, and online spaces report lower rates of suicide attempts compared to those without such support. By prioritizing these efforts, resilience can be fostered, mental well-being can be improved, and a more inclusive society can be created for everyone.

The article is written by Rohan Arora, Co-Founder, Evolve.

(DISCLAIMER: The views expressed are solely of the author and ETHealthworld.com does not necessarily subscribe to it. ETHealthworld.com shall not be responsible for any damage caused to any person/organisation directly or indirectly)

  • Published On Jun 16, 2024 at 02:40 PM IST

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