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How Mental Health Impacts the LGBTQ+ Community

This blog was written by Zane Landin, Intern, Speaks 2 Inspire: 

June is when we celebrate how members of the LGBTQIA+ community have historically left a mark on the world. For those who aren’t aware, LGBTQIA+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (questioning), intersex, asexual, and agender. The community represents a diverse culture of many gender identities and sexual orientations.

Members of the LGBTQ+ community have endured relentless pain and violence for decades, but the 1960s proved to be a particularly challenging time. Same-sex relationships were illegal in several states, and in other parts of the world, people were (and still are) persecuted and killed for being gay. While there were advocates who worked tirelessly to dismantle the systems of homophobia and transphobia, the Stonewall Riots inspired a much-needed urgency to fight for LGBTQ+ rights and end the unjust brutality.

How It All Started

It all started during the early hours of June 28, 1969, when the New York City police raided the Stonewall Inn, which was a gay club located in Greenwich Village. After this incident, the LGBTQ+ community protested for six days. The first Pride march was held in New York City on June 28, 1970—the first anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising. In 1978, Gilbert Baker, an openly gay man and a drag queen, designed the first-ever pride flag. He was inspired by Harvey Milk, the first openly gay elected official, to create a collective symbol of pride and acceptance for the gay community. He chose a flag because he believed it to be the most potent symbol of pride. The first handmade rainbow flag was flown on June 25, 1978, for the San Francisco Gay Freedom Day parade.

Fast forward to 2022, and we are still witnessing homophobia and transphobia. LGBTQ+ rights are currently being challenged by a growing movement of individuals trying to erase and mitigate the personal experiences of LGBTQIA+ folks. This is why Pride Month couldn’t be a more critical time for you to become a better ally, advocate, or friend to the community.

To be an effective ally, you need to first learn about intersectionality. Intersectionality is the notion that every person has their own unique experiences of discrimination and oppression. In addition, each person carries different identities (such as gender, class, race, sexual orientation, and so on), making up their unique self. Speaks 2 Inspire is dedicated to eradicating mental health stigma, but we can’t do this without recognizing the different communities impacted by embracing mental health intersectionality. After all, mental health drastically and disproportionately affects the LGBTQ+ community. Below are some tips on how you can better support LGBTQ+ mental health.

Learn the Facts

According to Mental Health America, LGBTQIA+ teens are six times more likely to experience symptoms of depression than non-LGBTQIA+ identifying teens, and LGBTQ+ youth are more than twice as likely to feel suicidal and over four times as likely to attempt suicide compared to heterosexual youth. To promote positive, lasting change, it is critical to do your research and learn about the various struggles that the LGBTQ+ community is facing daily.

Ask Questions

If you do not identify as LGBTQIA+ and have never struggled with your mental health, you may not understand how to help someone when they need it. Something as simple as checking in and asking questions can go a long way. When confronting someone, always strive to come from a place of empathy, compassion, and understanding (see Beyond the Job Description). This shows that you care about their mental health, plus it sends a signal that it’s safe for them to let their guard down.

Support Their Identity

There are many LGBTQIA identities, and it may feel confusing at times as you try to understand the differences between each one. But you don’t need to understand every facet of someone’s identity in order to accept them for who they are. Just give them the respect and dignity they deserve. This can be done by using their preferred pronouns, calling them by the name they would like to be referred to, and opening up space for them to be heard. Sometimes, people just need someone to listen to them. Don’t be afraid to have “H.O.T conversations.”

Explore and Share LGBTQIA+ Mental Health Resources

Find providers from the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association Directory and the Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists.

Get more resources from the National Center for Transgender Equality, LGBTQ National Help Center, the Trans Lifeline, the Trevor Project, SAGE National LGBT Elder Hotline, CenterLink LGBTQ Community Center Directory, GSLEN, and Society for Sexual, Affectional, Intersex, and Gender Expansive Identities (SAIGE)

Celebrating Pride Month

While the LGBTQIA+ community experiences a lot of pain, don’t forget this is also a unique opportunity to celebrate who they are. So get out there and support your peers—not just during Pride Month but all year round.

Connect with the writer, Zane, on LinkedIn.

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