Mental Health America understands that racism undermines mental health. Therefore, we are committed to anti racism in all that we do. This means that we pledge to work against individual racism, interpersonal racism, and institutional racism in all their forms.
LGBTQ+ Communities and Mental Health
Everyone has a sexual orientation and gender identity. Sexual orientation is who you are romantically or physically attracted to. Gender identity is the internal sense of being male, female, both or neither, which is separate from your biological sex. People who have a different sexual orientation or gender identity from most people fall under the umbrella term LGBTQ+. It is really important to know that identifying as LGBTQ+ is NOT a mental illness or disorder.
Although being LGBTQ+ is absolutely not a mental illness, many LGBTQ+ people experience mental health struggles. The bisexual and transgender communities have the highest rates of mental health concerns within the LGBTQ+ population. Younger members of the LGBTQ+ community struggle the most with mental health concerns of all the age groups.
Most LGBTQ+ individuals are incredibly resilient and will thrive in the face of adversity, with the help of supportive families, communities, and peers. One study even found that LGBTQ+ people used mental health services at 2.5 times higher rates than their вЂњstraightвЂќ counterparts. 1 However, they are also at particular risk for experiencing shame, fear, discrimination, and adverse and traumatic events.
Also, many people who identify as LGBTQ+ are part of second (and sometimes third or more) community that is marginalized. Examples of these groups are BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, or People of Color), people with a physical disability, people practicing a religion different than their neighbors, and people with low socioeconomic status. These people have complex experiences that cannot be easily addressed in one area of their life.
There are many negative stereotypes about being LGBTQ+ which makes many uncomfortable letting people know this important part of their identity. When people do openly express this part of themselves, they face the potential of rejection from peers, colleagues, and friends can exacerbate feelings of loneliness.
Among U.S. adults, 4.5 percent identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender. 2 LGBT identification is lower as age increases; 8.2 percent of Millennials (born between 1980 and 1999) identify as LGBT, compared to 3.5 percent of Generation X individuals (born between 1965 and 1979). 2 A majority of LGBTQ+ people say that they or an LGBTQ+ friend or family member have been threatened or non sexually harassed (57 percent), been sexually harassed (51 percent), or experienced violence (51 percent) because of their sexuality or gender identity. 4
Fifty nine percent of LGBTQ+ people feel that they have fewer employment opportunities and 50 percent believe they are paid less than non LGBTQ+ people. 4 In a survey of LGBTQ+ people, more than half of all respondents reported that they have faced cases of providers denying care, using harsh language, or blaming the patientвЂ™s sexual orientation or gender identity as the cause for an illness. Fear of discrimination may lead some people to conceal their sexual orientation or gender identity from providers or avoid seeking care altogether. 8
Sexual orientation from this perspective is viewed as contextual. It is a category that has meaning only because in Western culture we choose to imbue it with specific meaning. This meaning of sexual orientation is created out of the importance we give to the sex of a person that an individual is romantically attracted to. As previously discussed, that meaning is also a function of the meaning we give to gender and sex roles. In the absence of such вЂњconstructs,вЂќ sexual orientation per se has no special meaning. In cultures where gender and sexuality have different meanings, sexual orientation may not even exist as an entity to be studied or deemed important enough to label ( Tafoya, 1997 ).