Let’s face it:
We are not doing enough for the mental health of the LGBTQ+ community.
If you’ve ever thought that accessing mental health counseling or services is difficult, imagine doing it while being gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, queer, or while discovering your sexual identity. Although it may not seem like it, the numbers and statistics show that it is still a very hostile field for this community to find professional help free of stigma.
Those who suffer the most are adolescents, who at a young age have already identified as LGBTQ+ and struggle every day to maintain a healthy mind. A study revealed that 3 out of 10 young people who do identify as non-heterosexual have thought at least once about taking their own lives. These numbers are FRIGHTENING. It should make us wake up and think if we are really doing something to change this.
Mental Health and the LGBTQ+ Community
Stop for a second and think about it. As advanced as you think society is today, we are far from being able to say that we live in a world free of prejudice and that anyone is free to love whoever they want without being persecuted or attacked. In some countries, there is still a death sentence for homosexual behavior, like in the middle of 2021, not 1921.
The fact is that we live in a world made for straight people, even without discrimination. Everyone will assume you are straight until you prove or claim otherwise. This generates a very heavy psychological burden for LGBTQ+ people, who may suffer from depression, stress, and anxiety as much or more than we do, and in addition to that, you must add living with the uncertainty of whether they will be accepted by their families, friends or community by your sexual identity.
The result of this? Members of this community are more likely to fight mental illnesses like anxiety and depression, and the problem doesn’t end there. In addition, it is much more difficult to find mental health counseling since not every therapist knows what it is like to live as a gay, lesbian, transgender, or bisexual.
A real-life story
Although I can talk about it for hours, the truth is that taking control of the conversation is part of the problem, so it is time for me to pass the mic and let someone who lives this every day tell us their story. This person is a great friend of mine and has decided to remain anonymous, as he still fears the repercussions that he may suffer in his family and work.
I remember the first time I considered the idea of taking my own life. Behind the bathroom mirror my mother kept all the pills and medicines, I thought that if I took a bunch of all the ones that fit in my hand something should happen. I was just 16 years old.
My family was always very religious and traditional, although they never made overtly homophobic comments, it was clear that my sexual identity would not be good news for them. Living with that thought terrified me, thinking that my mom might stop loving me one day just for telling her the truth about me.
One day I was about to do it, I swear I had the bottles in my hands, and without knowing anything about drugs, I took the ones that looked “more dangerous”, I made a multicolored pool in the palm of my hand.
“Hurry, asshole! I need to use the bathroom!”
My sister didn’t know at the time that by banging on the door and being annoying like she used to be, she saved my life.
Today I live alone, I have a job, I love my family and I have good friends. However, when you are gay or lesbian you just know where you can “be you” and where you just can’t. Finding mental health counseling has been hellish, from psychiatrists who assume that my sexual identity was an act of rebellion in my teen years to one who asked me “but are you completely sure you don’t like women?”
The prejudices and stigmas still exist, although some believe that homophobia has been eradicated. If dealing with mental health issues is like playing a video game on hard difficulty, dealing with them being LGBTQ+ is like playing it with a controller that is missing buttons.
What can we do
Clearly, the system does not work the same for everyone, for some, it is easier than for others. However, it is not up to us to change the global mental health system, at least not for now. What can we do? If you know someone from the LGBTQ+ community, empathize with them, understand that although you also have problems, their path may be a bit steeper.
If you are part of the community, seek help from non-profit organizations specialized in supporting LGBTQ+ people, their helplines are open all year round and they will not hesitate a second to serve you.
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