"I don’t think I’ve ever felt completely free" Mental health within the LGBT+ Community
For a multitude of reasons mental health issues and illnesses are ever more prominent in our current society. The World Health Organisation revealed that 1 in 3 people in Europe will suffer with mental health issues; so why is this still something society shies away from?
Unfortunately, stereotypical ideology is still present in our society, so surely fighting the stigma around issues like mental health has never been more necessary.
The National LGBT survey from GOV.UK stated that 24% of their participants had accessed mental health services within the last 12 months. Throughout this article we will explore several individual experiences and how their identified sexual orientation has affected their mental health.
Links between mental health issues and identifying as someone from the LGBT+ community has proved uncannily common. In 2018 Stonewall carried out a survey interviewing over 5000 LGBT+ people; these results identified that 52% had experienced depression alone in the last year, with a further 10% believing they had experienced depression.
With these statistics in mind and whilst speaking to members of the LGBT+ community it became apparent that Mental Health issues were a reoccurring battle.
Liam, 25 from Cardiff stated how he believed a large proportion of LGBT+ community suffers with mental health issues, such as, anxiety, depression, disassociation and/or paranoia. He said:
I personally have always had quite bad anxiety and I have depressive bouts every few weeks. I’ve not been officially diagnosed with a mental health disorder/illness, but from what I’ve read of other people’s situations this is what I’m experiencing. '
Similarly, Mike, 23 from Wiltshire expressed:
"In the past, I definitely suffered with anxiety over my sexuality. I grew up in a Catholic community and for a long time couldn’t come to terms with being bisexual. I couldn’t understand why I was finding men attractive alongside women and there was no obvious way of exploring this part of my sexuality until I moved away to university. There I was able to be myself more, but I still feel the stigma attached to my sexuality."
Each given week in England 1 in 6 people will suffer with mental health issues, such as anxiety or depression. In the survey Stonewall carried out, 3 out of 5 LGBT+ people revealed that they had suffered with anxiety in the last 12 months; a worrying statistic and one which is unforgivingly higher than the estimated average. Mental health issues were also found to be more prominent in LGBT+ people who were younger, non-white, less-abled or came from deprived backgrounds. Char, 29 from Birmingham experienced anxiety which led to low self-esteem and caused depression, but she also shared that:
"It's hard enough knowing where to fit in being mixed raced, so adding Lesbian to my already complicated intersections was a lot. "
The National LGBT Survey Report also noted that more than two thirds of participants had avoided holding hands with same-sex partners over the fear of attracting a negative reception. In relation to this Liam expressed:
"I feel that I’m always slightly anxious and conscious of what people think of me and how they act around me. I know that the UK is quite diverse and accepting of all types of people, but there’s always something in the back of my mind that is hyper aware that not everyone is as accepting and that people can get violent or abusive. This can sometimes affect the way I act around my boyfriend in certain situations. "
Mike also added:
I don’t think I’ve ever felt completely free due to how other perceive me and judge me on my appearance and actions.
Devastatingly, Stonewalls report also revealed that 1 in 8 LGBT+ people aged 18-24 attempted to lose their life in the last year. These statistics are the harsh reality, but if we take the opinion that certain mental health issues are provoked by society’s acceptance of the LGBT+ community, they really needn’t be. Why aren’t these statistics enough to change tainted ideologies and for society to realise the severity of its harmful stereotypes. Mike voiced:
"I think growing up as part of the LGBT is incredibly difficult, and I see this in the secondary school I am currently working at. ‘Gay’ is still being used as a vicious term and there are not many openly gay students. Statistically, for the school size of 1,300 pupils there should be a lot more LGBT members present."
Needless to say, if the LGBT+ community are experiencing turmoil in their day to day lives as a result of their sexual orientation/ gender identity you can understand why the links to mental health issues are higher than the estimated average. Society’s receipt of lesser represented groups creates a barrier for acceptance, potentially provoking an individual’s lack of acceptance towards themselves. We can only hope that the stigmas we fight to break allow for a more open-minded future; if only this evolution could happen overnight.
Char however believes that:
"The stigma attached to both Mental Health and [the] out community are changing, we are emerging daily in solidarity, people are showing up, speaking out, being role models. The way activism has taken a dramatic turn with the help of social media [means] it's becoming easier for people to relate. That unity for me is the biggest catalyst for change."
This subject also highlights why LGBT+ lessons in schools would be so invaluable. Teaching the younger generations about LGBT+ and what it means to be LGBT+ would surely result in more unprejudiced and accepting individuals.
Also these lessons would be fundamental for those who will identify as LGBT+. For those individuals to have reassurance that they needn’t feel marginalised or oppressed about who they are. The sooner we allow individuals to talk and express themselves, the sooner we will break the stigmas. If society is constantly trying to categorise people under specific labels and not fight old stereotypes then we are always going to have people fighting turmoil, because their representation in society is not balanced.
If you’ve been struggling with your mental health or are having suicidal thoughts, or you know somebody who is, these are the numbers to call to get some help.
Samaritans: 116 123
CALM: 0800 58 58 58
Papyrus (for those under 35): 0800 068 41 41
Childline (for children and young people under 19): 0800 1111
The Silver Line (for the elderly): 0800 4 70 80 90
Below is also a list of useful charities that work primarily with the LGBT+ Communities.
LGBT Foundation: 03453303030
The Proud Trust: 0161 660 3347
And as always, if you need to contact us personally, here is the best way to get in touch: