The mental health needs of the LGBTQ community are quite unique. People who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer are by and large a resilient group. According to a large body of research, they are, on average, likely to prepare for adverse events, practice radical acceptance, and provide support to their communities. And on the other hand, it is also true that LGBTQ individuals are more likely than their heterosexual peers to experience depression, suicidal thoughts, and other mental health problems. The portrait of this community includes a distinctive mix of strength and vulnerability. So let’s take a look at LGBTQ mental health.

 

Statistics on LGBTQ Mental Health

According to a recent Gallup poll, 7.6% of American adults said they identified as LGBTQ in 2023. That number has been steadily increasing every year since Gallup began polling on that question in 2012, when the number was 3.5%. Women and younger generations are more likely to identify as LGBTQ than men and older generations.

To be perfectly clear, being queer is not a mental illness. That being said, people from this community are more likely to experience certain mental illnesses than their heterosexual peers. Let’s take a look at the data on LGBTQ mental health: 

 

  • Depression and anxiety: According to a 2022 U.S. Census report, LGBT adults of all age groups were significantly more likely to report symptoms of anxiety and depression.
  • Suicide risk for LGB youth: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that LGB youth are nearly twice as likely as heterosexual youth to report feeling sad and hopeless almost every day for at least 2 weeks at a time. These children are also more than five times as likely as heterosexual kids to have attempted suicide in the last year.
  • Suicide risk for trans and non-binary youth: More than half of trans and non-binary youth reported having seriously considered suicide in the past year in a 2021 Trevor Project survey, and more than 1 in 5 of these young people had attempted suicide.
  • Substance abuse: According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), research indicates that alcohol and drug use and abuse is generally higher among LGBTQ people than among heterosexuals. However, it is difficult to pinpoint exact rates because epidemiological studies on substance abuse rarely ask about sexual orientation. 

 

 

Stigma and Discrimination–Effect on LGBTQ Mental Health

This community faces a significant amount of discrimination and stigma. LGBTQ people are more likely than heterosexual, cis-gendered people to be victims of violent crime or sexual harassment. Many LGBTQ youth report that their families do not support their identities. Anti-trans laws have been passed in a number of states across the country. And LGBTQ folks experience a high level of discrimination from employers and service providers.

As you might imagine, all of this stigma and discrimination contributes to poor mental health outcomes for the LGBTQ community.

“Unfortunately, the LGBTQIA community may experience challenges regarding acceptance, safety and freedom,” says Erin McAndrew, CRNP, RNC-OB, Gladstone’s LBGBTQIA+ Program Lead. “If they are not fully accepted by their friends, family, co-workers, health care providers, and strangers out in the world, then they may not feel safe enough to consciously and subconsciously allow themselves to fully be who they are. When they are worried about their physical and/or emotional safety because of who they are, that can be traumatizing and lead to depression, anxiety, substance use, and trauma disorders.”

 

 

LGBTQ Affirming Therapy and Psychiatry

To combat these problems, LGBTQ individuals often seek out mental health professionals who can provide affirmative services.

LGBTQ affirming therapy is a type of psychotherapy that validates the needs of sexual and gender minority clients. An affirming therapist uses verbal and nonverbal tools to demonstrate their acceptance toward their LGBTQ clients. For example, the therapist would use the correct gender and sexual terminology when referring to their clients, and they would ask questions if they weren’t sure of which terms to use. They would also acknowledge that their client has a unique story and preferences related to personal discovery of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.

Similarly, affirming psychiatrists and psychiatric nurse practitioners treat their LGBTQ clients with respect and offer validation of their identities. 

Here are a few more signs that a therapist or medication prescriber is LGBTQ affirming:

 

  • They include space for pronouns and preferred name on their intake paperwork.
  • They include a blank space or “other” category for gender on their paperwork.
  • They share their own pronouns.
  • They treat you with non-judgment and respect.
  • They acknowledge and challenge their own heteronormative and gender normative assumptions.
  • They advocate against stigma and discrimination in the LGBTQ community.
  • They offer LGBTQ reading materials and resources in their waiting room or on their website.

 

 

How Can I Find Mental Health Care Near Me?

If you are looking for a mental health provider, Gladstone Psychiatry and Wellness can help. We offer medication management, individual therapy, group therapy, and a comprehensive DBT program that is certified by the DBT-Linehan Board of Certification. Call us at 443-708-5856 or email new.patient@gladstonepsych.com