Mental Health in the LGBTQIA+ Community
While going through adolescence, a high number of teenagers find themselves struggling with their mental health, however, studies have shown that youth belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community tend to experience issues with mental health at higher rates because of being vulnerable to various disadvantages and inequalities at a community level. A study was done in 2012 states that youth belonging to the queer community were three times as likely to express symptoms of depression than their cisgender and heterosexual counterparts. They were also twice as likely to attempt self-harm and suffer a greater risk of alcohol or drug use.
A number of factors play into this. Unfortunate as it is, we live in is very heteronormative society. Being anything other than cisgender and heterosexual is illegal in 69 countries even today. Consequently, many stigmas exist for those belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community. Even in countries where being queer is legal, people belonging to the queer community are discriminated against, say, conversion therapy is legal in most states in the USA but on a personal level, LGBTQIA+ youth lose family and friends upon coming out. They might even be kicked out of their house by intolerant and homophobic parents.
Since, LGBTQIA+ youth represent a small percentage of the population; they are highly likely to experience hostile environments, in school as well as at home. They are subjected to direct and indirect harassment and discrimination. Primarily, the current studies suggest that sexual and gender minority youth have to face unique risks due to their existence as minorities. These risks, in addition to the pre-existing conditions, lead to a higher percentage of LGBTQIA+ youth having mental health issues
As individuals, we cannot single-handedly change the discriminatory societal but we can help the people in our lives who belong to the LGBTQIA+ community. They may face bullying, harassment and rejection simply for being who they are. It can be isolating for them and they may feel as though there is nobody in their corner. So, when somebody comes out to you, it is important to listen to what they are struggling through and provide them with a safe space. It is also important to not pressure them into talking about anything they are not ready to talk about. We can also work in small ways to promote equality in our community. Whether it is advocating for LGBTQIA+ rights online, or volunteering with LGBTQIA+ organizations, every little bit makes a difference. The impact of discrimination on mental health is not something we can overcome easily. However, little steps like these help those who are part of the LGBTQIA+ community.