LifePath Therapy Associates

Mental Health Needs in LGBTQ+ Populations

By: Amy Munroe, AM, LSW

Pride month is an opportunity to celebrate the progress that has been made for the LGBTQ+ community, but it is also a reminder that there is still much work to be done. One area that requires immediate attention is the mental health of LGBTQ+ individuals.

Studies have consistently shown that LGBTQ+ individuals experience a disproportionate burden of mental health concerns. According to a national survey conducted by the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), LGBTQ+ individuals were three times more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and mood disorders compared to their heterosexual peers (NAMI, 2017). LGBTQ+ individuals also have higher rates of suicide attempts and completed suicides, with transgender individuals experiencing the highest rates of all (Haas et al., 2014).

Despite the higher prevalence of mental health concerns, LGBTQ+ individuals often do not seek out care. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), LGBTQ+ adults were less likely than their heterosexual peers to receive mental health treatment in the past year (SAMHSA, 2021). This may be due to the stigma and discrimination that LGBTQ+ individuals often face in accessing healthcare.

Furthermore, even when LGBTQ+ individuals do seek care, there may be additional considerations that the therapist needs to be aware of. For example, LGBTQ+ individuals may have experienced trauma related to their sexual or gender identity, such as conversion therapy or hate crimes. It is important for the therapist to create a safe and affirming space for the client to explore these experiences.

Clinicians working with LGBTQ+ individuals may also need to be knowledgeable about the unique stressors that this population faces. For example, the fear of coming out or being outed can increase anxiety and depression (Meyer, 2003). Discrimination, family rejection, and societal stigma can also take a toll on mental health.

In order to provide competent and effective care, therapists should seek out training and resources on working with LGBTQ+ individuals. Affirming language, inclusive practices, and a willingness to learn and listen to the client’s experiences can go a long way in building trust and creating a safe therapeutic environment.

In conclusion, Pride month is a reminder that the mental health needs of LGBTQ+ individuals require our attention year-round. By recognizing the disproportionate burden of mental health concerns, the barriers to care, and the unique stressors faced by this population, clinicians can provide competent and effective services to the LGBTQ+ community.

References:

Haas, A. P., Rodgers, P. L., & Herman, J. L. (2014). Suicide Attempts Among Transgender and Gender Non-Conforming Adults: Findings of the National Transgender Discrimination Survey. The Williams Institute.

Meyer, I. H. (2003). Prejudice, social stress, and mental health in lesbian, gay, and bisexual populations: Conceptual issues and research evidence. Psychological Bulletin, 129(5), 674-697.

National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). (2017). LGBTQ mental health. https://www.nami.org/Find-Support/LGBTQ

Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). (2021). Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender mental health. https://www.samhsa.gov/behavioral-health-equity/lgbt