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LGBT Mental Health
by Mel June 1st 2010, 05:19 AM

Article featured in Avatar - Volume 3, Issue 11 (May 2010).


LGBT Mental Health
By Maria (Gidig)

Mental health is brought up in many topics we talk about in this era. A huge part of living in the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender (LGBT) community is hearing about our own mental health. There is unfortunately a large difference between the mental health of LGBT people and that of ‘straight’ (heterosexual) people.

We have finally reached a point in our culture that identifying as LGBT is not considered a mental health issue, nor does it mean that because you’re gay you’re automatically depressed – it’s simply who we are. For a long time ‘gay’ was considered a disorder in itself, and although we now understand that it is not, LGBT people are still two and a half times more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, or substance abuse issues throughout their lifetime.

Many things could create such a disparity in mental health issues. The main cause researchers have found is most likely society and how LGBT people are viewed, including that they are discriminated against. Constantly hearing that one is hated, being called a “fag” in the hallway at school, and witnessing people use the word gay as a synonym for stupid everyday can take a toll on a person's self-esteem and overall mental health.

There are many things people say that may offend LGBT people each day without realizing how offensive their words can be, and many LGBT people feel hatred from within their families, as well. Parents that aren't accepting of their LGBT child, or even their aunts, grandparents and even partner’s parents, may unwittingly hurt someone with their words and through their actions.

Health care for LGBT people in our society is not always the best. Many people must take multiple recommendations before finding a doctor that truly understands their lifestyle. Sometimes even getting a doctor to listen to them is a huge challenge! Some therapists may automatically jump to the conclusion that a person is depressed because they are bisexual or transgendered, but many of our health professionals are simply uneducated. No one wants to go to a doctor who doesn’t understand or won’t listen, so some people simply don’t ask for help at all. For example, multiple doctors truly believe lesbians are at less risk for STIs, which is, in fact, not true, and so woman who sleeps with women may have to search harder to find good health care and a doctor who help them take proper care of their sexual health.

Have you ever met someone that when you first started talking they hated homosexuals, and all the sudden they take a giant leap out of the closet themselves? It happens in many television shows and movies such as Queer as Folk where 'gay bashing' is done by a male interested in males himself. Internalized homophobia can be awful for a person's mental health, as the person internalizing this hatred ultimately hates themselves and many of the people around them. Self-hatred can cause anxiety, substance abuse, and depression as well as many other mental health issues.

Many families do not believe that their child is LGBT, and some parents may kick their LGBT child out of the house. Straight people with mental health issues tend to be more open with their parents and family and have support to work through whatever problems arise. Due to earlier circumstances of coming out, however, LGBT families tend to not be as strong as a unit, and therefore LGBT people may not lean on their family for support, which may cause mental health issues to worsen.
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