Mental health and LGBTQ+ - what's the situation?
Mental health is a big concern for all of us, but is also a major concern for the LGBTQ+ community in particular. With stats showing that LGBTQ+ people are at a higher risk of experiencing mental health concerns, they also show that they score themselves lower on quality of life metrics. The LGBTQ+ community are at higher risk of experiencing hate crime than the heterosexual community, and people are left feeling isolated or depressed due to homophobia.
This Pride Month, we asked the lovely MindOut, a charity that focuses on improving the mental health and well-being of members of the LGBTQ+ community, to answer some of your questions around this topic on The Student Room. Emma, LGBTQ+ Counselling Coordinator at MindOut, has answered your questions below:
Emma from MindOut answers your questions!
Obolinda wondered: "What would be your advice you somebody struggling with their gender identity or sexuality?"
I would say be kind to yourself, questioning your gender and/or sexuality can be stressful and confusing. Try not to feel rushed into deciding on a particular label or identity and also remember that feelings can change overtime which is fine too. Perhaps chat to friends or family you trust as well as other LGBTQ people who may feel similar to you.
Anonymous needed some support: "(Context: I am a bisexual male - 90% attraction to men 10% attraction to women approx.) Is it normal for me to hate the aspect of being with a guy? My mind tells me that I only want to marry and have a life with a girl."
We live in a heteronormative society where being heterosexual is seen as the norm and preferred sexuality, this can lead us to be believe that the ‘right’ thing to do is get married to someone of the opposite sex for example. This may be how you actually feel which is totally fine but I am wondering if there is space for accepting the other part of yourself who is attracted to guys. When we fight against something it can feel very stressful, be kind to this part of yourself as well as acknowledging that it feels hard sometimes. Hearing and seeing negative things about LGBTQ people can sometimes lead us to internalising these messages and feeling shame about our identity. Talking to other bisexual people perhaps as part of a group or online could help you feel less alone with this, it is likely others also feel similar to you. There is also a lack of understanding around bisexuality both from heterosexual people as well as from within the LGBTQ community. The important thing to remember is that being bi is completely normal.
rozinaaa asked: "How do I cope with being bi since my interest in both men and women fluctuate almost everyday, even though I want to be exclusively straight and not feel attracted to women nearly all the time?"
I am wondering what makes you not want to be attracted to women? Again, this could be due to internalised feelings that there is something wrong with being attracted to women. Sexuality can certainly change over time which is seems you are experiencing. Perhaps you could have a few weeks of just going with how you feel and not judging yourself for how you are feeling, without the pressure to be a certain way, this could help things feel a little less stressful. It could be helpful to talk to other LGBTQ people about how you feel or perhaps an LGBTQ counsellor who could give you space to work through some of these worries. Our online support workers often talk to people with similar concerns, you are welcome to make contact through our website www.mindout.org.uk where you will find our opening times.
Obolinda asked: "Do you feel people on the ace umbrella experience different problems?"
I think that a lot of people are still not very aware of what being asexual means or that there are many different identities under the ace umbrella. I can imagine people who are ace may feel they need to do a lot of educating others which can be very tiring. A common myth about asexuality is that it is about not having sex when it its actually about lack of sexual attraction to others. Some people also assume that asexual people do not want to be in relationships when in fact romantic attraction is separate from sexual attraction and many people who identity as asexual are interested in relationships, even if they are not interested in sex (although sometimes they might be!). It may be more difficult to meet other ace people as there doesn't seem to be as many support groups as there are for LGBT people but hopefully this will change with time as more people feel able to come out as ace.
BurstingBubbles was interested in finding out: "How can people be a good ally and friend of people who are LGBTQ+ and/or are struggling with their mental health?"
Never underestimate the power of listening! You may not be able to fix your friend’s mental health concerns but just by listening and providing support you can help them feel understood and supported. You can also help by supporting them to access support such as talking to their G.P about how they are feeling, perhaps going with them to the appointment. If your friend is LGBTQ they might want to access an LGBTQ mental health support group or something similar, you could support them to do this for the first time.
"Should politicians be more aware of LGBTQ+ and mental health issues? How can be encourage this awareness?"
There is a lack of LGBTQ specific mental health support in the UK and there needs to be more so that people do not feel isolated and alone and so they can get the support they need. You can write to your M.P and request they raise the issue of LGBTQ mental health in parliament, perhaps you have a suggestion of what might be useful in your local area, such as a peer support group or a drop in for LGBTQ people. You could consider becoming a member of a political party you feel shares your values and make change from the inside!
chelseadagg3r asked: "How can services better support intersectionality, where a person may be LGBTQ+ but also part of disabled or BAME communities?"
Services need to consider the needs of everyone who may want to use their service. Is their service accessible for wheelchairs, are interpreters available if they are needed, is there a space for people to pray, has consideration been giving to food choices available at events? People are likely to feel more comfortable using a service if they see diversity in staff, volunteers and trustees, this will also help to ensure that a variety of views and opinions are heard when making decisions which shape the services provided. Service users should be asked their opinions on what changes are needed in the design and delivery of the services through focus groups and surveys. Diversity should also be reflected in promotional posters etc. and it is important to ask people when they first use a service their pronouns and whether they have any cultural, spiritual or communication requirements.
Shadowdweller asked: "What kind of services and support do you offer?"
We provide lots of different types of support for LGBTQ people over 18 years old. We are located in Brighton so to use our services people need to be able to travel here however we do have an online support service where people can make contact and chat to one of our trained online support workers about anything that is on their mind. Services based in Brighton include advocacy, where an advocate can help you access information so you can make decisions which are important to you, help you challenge a decision you are not happy about and help signpost you to services if needed. We also run peer support groups such as Out Of The Blue which is a peer support group for people who experience suicidal distress and we have a peer mentoring scheme where people can meet once a week with a volunteer who has lived experience of mental health and go for coffee or do an activity together. We also have support for people who are over 50 years old and a worker who specialises in suicide prevention.
"Is it possible to get involved with volunteering with you?"
You certainly can if you are Brighton based or can travel here. You can go through our training program and become an online support worker or peer mentor. You can email Dawn if you want to know more about these roles - [email protected].
For any other questions or support, check out our mental health forum, or www.mindout.org.uk.
Also, you can check out https://switchboard.lgbt/, a helpline for chatting through anything on your mind, or https://www.allsortsyouth.org.uk/. Allsorts Youth Project is based in Brighton but can signpost you to support in your area if you are not local to Brighton.