LGBTQ+ Mental Health

Four words made of wooden blocks, forming a cross on a pink background: "EQUALITY" vertically, "DIVERSITY" vertically, and "INCLUSION" horizontally intersecting both words at the center. "INCLUSION," sporting rainbow-colored letters, highlights themes central to mental health treatment.

Individuals who identify as LGBTQ+ may face mental health challenges and distress throughout their lives, just like anyone else. However, extensive evidence from around the world highlights increased levels of common mental health issues, such as depression and anxiety, among individuals in these communities.

It is well-known that LQBTQ+ individuals and communities face the negative impacts of discrimination and marginalisation in society. Whether direct or indirect, interpersonal or societal, experiences of discrimination further exacerbate these challenges.

Research on intersectionality indicates that there are additional and multi-layered disparities affecting LGBTQ+ people who are from other marginalised groups, such as those from ethnic or religious minority backgrounds and those living with disabilities.

It is important that we are all aware of the challenges that LGBTQ+ communities face in order to provide the right support, develop LGBTQ+ inclusive approaches, and understand the barriers to treatment.

A Look at the Data

  • Gay and bisexual men are four times more likely to attempt suicide throughout their lives compared to the general population.
  • LGBTQ+ individuals are one and a half times more prone to developing depression and anxiety disorders compared to the rest of the population.
  • Within the previous year, 67% of transgender individuals experienced depression, and 46% had contemplated ending their lives. 1
  • One in eight LGBTQ+ people has experienced some form of unequal treatment from healthcare staff because they’re LGBTQ+.
  • One in seven people have avoided treatment for fear of discrimination because they are LGBTQ+.
  • Nearly half of trans people (45%) said that their GP did not have a good understanding of their needs as a trans person, rising to over half of non-binary people (55%).
  • Trans people of colour also experienced transphobia from trans-specific healthcare providers at more than double the rate of white respondents (13% compared to 6%) 2
  • 52% of young LGBTQ+ people reported self-harm compared to 25% of heterosexual non-trans young people, and 44% of young LGBT people have considered suicide compared to 26% of heterosexual non-trans young people. 3

Challenges for LGBTQ+ Individuals

There are specific areas of society or stages of life that are particularly challenging to LGBTQ+ individuals.

Coming Out

Coming out refers to the process of disclosing one’s sexual or gender identity to others. This significant moment often entails considerable stress, anxiety, shame, and confusion for many individuals. While societal attitudes are evolving, it is crucial to acknowledge that sharing one’s identity with friends or family can still be perilous for numerous young people. They may encounter bullying, ignorance, a lack of acceptance, and even the possibility of being estranged. These factors significantly heighten the risks of facing additional difficulties, including feelings of isolation, homelessness, substance abuse, and trauma.

Bullying and Education

Bullying can be traumatic and leave a lasting psychological impact on people throughout their lives. In the past year, 42% of LGBTQ+ school pupils endured bullying, twice the rate of their non-LGBTQ+ peers 4. This disparity highlights the urgent need for inclusive and supportive environments within educational institutions.

In institutions where positive messaging is actively shared, inclusive messages have been linked to reduced suicidal thoughts and feelings among all pupils, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity. However, despite this, research shows that almost half of all pupils have received little to no positive messaging about being LGBTQ++ at school.

Although these have been some steps forward in sex education, just one in five LGBTQ+ pupils receive instruction on safe sex in relation to same-sex relationships at school, while two in five are never taught anything about LGBTQ+ issues at school. This lack of education perpetuates a cycle of misinformation and exclusion, not only increasing the risk of risky sex practices but also contributing to the sense that the LGBTQ+ experience doesn’t matter.

Most teachers in the UK are aware of the challenges, with almost nine in ten secondary school teachers and almost half of primary school teachers confirming that pupils in their schools have experienced homophobic bullying. However, there often aren’t the resources or time to properly address these issues.

These findings underline the urgent need for educational institutions to foster inclusive environments, provide comprehensive education, and actively combat all forms of bullying targeting LGBTQ+ students.

Mental Health and Medical Care

In a recent survey, it was revealed that among gay and bisexual men who sought healthcare services in the past year, 17% encountered healthcare professionals displaying inappropriate curiosity. Additionally, 30% of lesbians and 23% of bisexual women reported experiencing similar instances of inappropriate curiosity from healthcare staff. This kind of treatment can cause distrust and discomfort in medical and clinical spaces, potentially causing LGBTQ+ individuals to avoid medical support for fear of discrimination. Additionally, the same study found that 27% of transgender individuals who disclosed their identity were involuntarily “outed” by healthcare professionals without their consent 5. Deciding when and how to share your identity with friends and family is a deeply personal decision, and more careful and considered measures need to be taken my healthcare staff in order to maintain trust and ensure they properly support patients.

Shockingly, conversion therapy is the process of attempting to cure a person by convincing them to be heterosexual or cisgender through psychoanalysis, behaviour modification and other counselling approaches. LQBTQ+ campaigners and allies widely refer to this as abuse, and its pseudoscientific basis has been heavily criticised. While the UK government says they plan to ban the practice, legislation has not yet been published.

According to the UK Government’s own research, 7% of LGBT people have been offered or undergone conversion therapy, with individuals targeted in medical, psychiatric, psychological, religious and cultural settings. Those in multiple marginalised groups are at higher risk, with LGBTQ+ people of colour being twice as likely to undergo conversion therapy. While there is no data to indicate that conversion therapy is successful, there is significant evidence that it can be fatal. According to a study conducted in 2018, LGBTQ+ youth who underwent conversion therapy were found to be over twice as likely to report multiple suicide attempts. 6

How to Support the LGBTQ+ Community

To better support the mental health of the LGBTQ+ community, it is crucial to create a safe and inclusive environment that recognises their unique experiences. Support can be provided through education and awareness about LGBTQ+ identities and mental health challenges. Accessible and culturally sensitive mental health services, such as LGBTQ+ helplines and counselling, should be available as well as other safe spaces where individuals can freely express themselves without fear of judgment or discrimination. It’s important that mental health professionals engage in up-to-date training on LGBTQ+ issues in order to provide inclusive and appropriate support. Tailored suicide prevention programs, peer support networks, and collaboration with LGBTQ+ organisations are also essential. Ongoing consultation ensures that support services meet the specific needs of the community. Advocacy for LGBTQ+ rights and policy change is vital.


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