Mental health disorders aren’t uncommon for the general population. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, about 6.7% of adults in the U.S. have at least one episode of depression per year.
Meanwhile, those in the LGBTQ+ community are often at a greater risk for mental health conditions due to factors like stress and discrimination at work, school, or even in social circles. A 2015 survey conducted by the CDC found that 60% of LGBTQ+ youth were so sad or depressed that they stopped doing their regular activities.
Both adults and youth in the LGBTQ+ community have a greater risk of experiencing mental health issues. The best thing you can do if you’re struggling with depression, anxiety, or stress is to seek out professional help from a therapist or counselor, but, it’s important to look for a counselor who specializes in LGBTQ+ care. They will have a better understanding of what you’re going through and can help you to work through your hardships to take control of your mental health.
Mental Health Issues for LGBTQ+ Youth
LGBTQ+ youth are especially at risk for mental health conditions due to discrimination at school or from friends and others. Data has found that 75% of LGBTQ teens have felt depressed in the last week, and 70% feel worthless and hopeless. Feelings of hopelessness can easily lead to self-harm or suicide, especially among teenagers.
Unfortunately, youth members of the LGBTQ+ community are three times more likely to have a mental health condition than their heterosexual, cisgender peers. They face challenges in coming out to friends and family, bullying in school (including cyberbullying), and even harassment. In addition to seeking help from a counselor, it’s important for youth within the LGBTQ+ community to have allies and a support system:
- Supportive parents/family members
- School counselors
- Social workers
- Support groups for teens
There are national organizations specifically designed to help LGBTQ+ youth in the country including Campus Pride for college students. While a specialized counselor can help with feelings of hopelessness, finding strong allies is, perhaps, one of the most important and powerful resources for LGBTQ+ youth.
How Issues Carry Over Into Adulthood
Unfortunately, discrimination of the LGBTQ+ community doesn’t stop in adult circles. For many grown men and women within the community, some of the biggest struggles they face are in the workplace. It is currently legal in 28 states to fire an employee for being gay, bisexual, or transgender. There is some good news, though. Currently, 22 states have laws in place that prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and/or gender identity, but that number, obviously, won’t be enough until all 50 states are on board.
According to the National Transgender Discrimination Survey, in 2016, 23% of survey participants experienced mistreatment in the workplace over the last year. Discrimination at work can make it difficult for people in the community to fully express themselves. They might worry about getting fired or being looked down upon. They might even feel as though they have to hide certain parts of their lives or their personalities to avoid being judged.
Many people experience work stress every day, but, if you’re in the LGBTQ+ community and your stress from the workplace comes from your co-workers and bosses, it could cause you to become depressed or anxious. You may feel as though you have to hide who you are.
Finding the Right Resources
Your mental health should always be your top priority. You don’t need to wait for your symptoms of depression to completely take over to seek help. If you’re really struggling or you’ve had thoughts of self-harm, contact an emergency self-help line such as The Trevor Project, where you’ll be able to talk to someone who can help right away. They will also be able to refer you to the right people for long-term help.
When it comes to long-term care, working with a counselor who knows about the LGBTQ+ community can make you feel more comfortable opening up and feeling understood. A counselor who also specializes in holistic health can help you on your journey to a healthier mental state too. Holistic health focuses on alternative treatments that include the following:
- Dietary changes
- Natural alternative medications like CBD oil, for anxiety disorders and more
So, how can you find an LGBTQ+-friendly therapist? It’s easier than you might think. To get started, try Psychology Today’s “Find a Therapist” portal to search for counselors near you. You can also interview area therapists before committing to them to understand their strengths, accreditations, and what to expect from your sessions. If there aren’t any therapists in your area who specialize in LGBTQ+ care, consider teletherapy as an option, so you can connect with the therapist that is right for you, no matter where you are.
As a member of this community, it’s important to feel heard and understood, especially if you’re struggling with your mental health and emotions. There is never a reason to feel ashamed or embarrassed by your own feelings, and going to a counselor makes you strong, not weak. You deserve to be heard, and you don’t have to go through this alone. Whether you’re struggling with coming out, being accepted, or even if you’re worried about your child who is a member of the LGBTQ+ community, a counselor who understands can be the resource you need to combat feelings of depression or anxiety.
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