Do LGBT people have unique mental health concerns?

When thinking about mental health issues, it is important to remember that each population has its own set of complexities to consider. While all people need to monitor their mental health, men, women and intersex individuals are all likely to experience mental health differently. For example, studies have suggested that women are twice as likely to experience depression than their male counterparts. On the other hand, men are more likely to be diagnosed with substance use or antisocial disorders. Similar discrepancies have been found along racial and ethnic lines and among those of different sexual orientations.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, LGBTQ-identified people are three times more likely to be diagnosed with a mental health condition such as depression or generalized anxiety disorder compared to heterosexuals. Further, LGBTQ individuals are two to three times more likely to be diagnosed with a substance use disorder. More disturbingly, LGBTQ youth between the ages of 10 and 24 are three times more likely to attempt suicide, experience suicidal ideation or exhibit para-suicidal behaviors, such as “cutting” or other forms of self-harm.

While great strides have been made in terms of the society's treatment of LGBTQ individuals and issues related to sexual orientation-based discrimination have become part of the public consciousness, growing up gay or transgender is still an experience that often is accompanied with feeling ostracized, stigmatized and rejected. Peer rejection, parental neglect and loneliness continue to affect the LGBTQ community and the bruises attained through those traumas are not easily healed. Growing up feeling like an outsider can be a frightening and isolating experience, and the unsettling and disproportionate mental health statistics associated with this community reflect that.

LGBT individuals and those who care about them should be aware of these differences. When emotional distress approaches a level that appears to require professional help, LGBTQ individuals should seek out mental health professionals who have training and experience working with this population. When it comes to seeking treatment, GAYLESTA (a national organization for LGBTQ mental health professionals) or your local LGBTQ center are likely to provide quality referrals to help guarantee that these important concerns are addressed.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.