LGBTI Diversity Mental Health

We understand that you may feel alone in your journey, but we can assure you that you are absolutely NOT alone. You have found what we hope you will call your mental health support home. We offer hope and help in the form of support groups, education, and training  classes for the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersexed (LGBTQI) and mental health illness communities.

While belonging to the LGBTQI community can be a source of strength, it also brings its own unique challenges. For people who identify as LGBTQI (and for your family members), it’s important to recognize how your experience of sexual orientation and gender identity relates to your mental health.

Coming Out

Many LGBTQ youths are “coming out” or sharing their sexual orientation or gender identity at younger ages thanks to an increase in societal acceptance of LGBTQI people. However, this can impact their social experiences and relationships which can then have negative mental health impacts, particularly for youth who are not in supportive environments.

NAMI support group participants often share that this becomes their new family. We welcome you to make it yours, too!

Rejection

For many in the LGBTQI community, coming out can be a difficult or even traumatic experience. It can be hard to cope with the rejection of something as personal as one’s identity from family or close friends, within the workplace, or in a faith-based community.

According to a 2013 survey, 40% of LGBT adults have experienced rejection from a family member or a close friend. A 2019 school climate survey showed that 86% of LGBTQI youth reported being harassed or assaulted at school, which can significantly impact their mental health.

Trauma

Homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, bullying and feeling identity-based shame is often traumatic for people. The LGBTQI community faces many forms of discrimination, including labeling, stereotyping, denial of opportunities or access, and verbal, mental and physical abuse. They are one of the most targeted communities by perpetrators of hate crimes in the country.

Such discrimination can contribute to a significantly heightened risk for PTSD among individuals in the LGBTQI community compared to those who identify as heterosexual and cisgender (people whose gender identity corresponds with their birth sex).

Substance Abuse

Substance abuse (misuse or overuse) is a significant concern for members of this community. LGB adults are nearly twice as likely as heterosexual adults to experience a substance use disorder. Transgender individuals are almost four times as likely as cisgender individuals to experience a substance use disorder. Illicit drug use is significantly higher in high school-aged youth who identify as lesbian-gay-bisexual or are unsure of their identity, compared to their heterosexual peers. Drugs are often used as a coping mechanism or method of self-medication.

White man holding hands over his face wearing a hoodie.

Homelessness

It is estimated that LGBTQ youth and young adults have a 120% higher risk of experiencing homelessness. This is often due to the result of family rejection or discrimination based on gender identity or sexual orientation. This risk is especially high among Black LGBTQ youth. Many members of the LGBTQI community face the added challenge of finding homeless shelters that will accept them and can experience elevated rates of harassment and abuse in these spaces.

Suicide

Many people in this community struggle in silence and face worse health outcomes as a result.

  • The LGBTQI population is at a higher risk than the heterosexual, cisgender population for suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts.
  • High school students who identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual are more than four times as likely to attempt suicide compared to their heterosexual peers.
  • 40% of transgender adults have attempted suicide in their lifetime, compared to less than 5% of the general U.S. population.

Inadequate Mental Health Care

For many in the LGBTQI community, coming out can be a difficult or even traumatic experience. It can be hard to cope with the rejection of something as personal as one’s identity from family or close friends, within the workplace, or in a faith-based community.

According to a 2013 survey, 40% of LGBT adults have experienced rejection from a family member or a close friend. A 2019 school climate survey showed that 86% of LGBTQI youth reported being harassed or assaulted at school, which can significantly impact their mental health.

In addition to LGBTQI identities, members of the community are diverse in terms of race, religion, ethnicity, nationality and socioeconomic class. This intersectionality (the combined and overlapping aspects of a persons’ identity) brings diversity of thought, perspective, understanding and experience. This complexity is important to understand as a unique and valuable aspect of the LGBTQI community that can result in a strong sense of pride and resiliency.

Although the full range of LGBTQI identities are not commonly included in large-scale studies of mental health issues, there is strong evidence that members of this community are at a higher risk for experiencing mental health conditions. Those ranking highest are depression and anxiety disorders. LGB adults are more than twice as likely as heterosexual adults to experience a mental health condition. Transgender people are nearly four times as likely as cisgender individuals to experience a mental health condition.

LGB youth also experience a greater risk for mental health conditions and suicidality. LGB youth are more than twice as likely to report experiencing persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness than their heterosexual peers. Transgender youth face further disparities as they are twice as likely to experience depressive symptoms, seriously consider suicide, and attempt suicide compared to cisgender lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer and questioning youth.

For many LGBTQI individuals, socioeconomic and cultural conditions negatively impact mental health conditions. Many in the LGBTQI community face discrimination, prejudice, denial of civil and human rights, harassment and family rejection, which can lead to new or worsened symptoms, particularly for those with intersecting racial or socioeconomic identities.

NAMI Greater Mississippi Valley is here to help. We are the local affiliate of NAMI (National Alliance on Mental Illness), a grassroots organization dedicated to educating everyone – from young people to mature adults – that mental health conditions are treatable and recovery is possible. The earlier they are detected, the better. Early detection, treatment and recovery aren’t just for cancer patients. They are for us, too.