Mental Health in the LGBT+ Community
Every year on the 17th May we celebrate IDAHOBIT - International Day Against Homophobia, Biophobia and Transphobia. The date was chosen because it marked the anniversary of the World Health Organisations decision in 1990 (just 30 years ago) to declassify homosexuality as a mental disorder. For me, that’s personal. As I say to friends “when I came out to my parents in 1989, my mum was technically correct when she thought I was going mad.” It’s amazing to think that overnight millions of people were effectively cured of their mental health issue. It’s also amazing to think that transgender people had to wait until 2019 for their gender identity to no longer be classified as a mental health issue too.
So it’s clear that the LGBT+ community have got a long and painful history with mental health services and whilst our sexuality and gender identities are no longer a sign of madness, the statistics around mental health in the LGBT+ community are shocking. More than 40 percent of LGBT+ people will experience a significant mental health problem, compared to around 25 percent of the whole population. Almost half (48 per cent) of trans people in Britain have attempted suicide at least once. 62% of Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic LGBT+ people have experienced depression in the last year. Rates of depression are highest among LGBT people who’ve experienced a hate crime based on their sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
Why are these stats so huge? It is clear that living with prejudice, hatred and discrimination takes its toll on people’s mental health. We are also prone to “minority stress” - a phrase coined to explain the chronic pressure that people from minorities live with every day … do I correct people if they misgender me or my partner? Will I be treated differently if people know I’m gay? How do I respond to racism from LGBT+ friends? Can I talk to a counsellor about my deepest anxieties without them thinking it’s because I’m trans?
One of the biggest antidotes to minority stress is Pride itself. Norwich Pride is a day when LGBT+ people can feel truly free to be themselves, without fear or judgement or explanation - and that’s why Norfolk and Waveney Mind are always part of the celebrations.
Check out our LGBTQ+ page on our website for a range of resources including podcasts, films and our acclaimed LGBTQ+ Directory of Support: www.norfolkandwaveneymind.org.uk/lgbtq