As we celebrate Pride Month each June, we’re reminded of the vibrant diversity that enriches our society. However, the celebrations also underscore the need for sensitive and inclusive mental health services that are attuned to the unique experiences and needs of the LGBTQ+ community.
The intersection of LGBTQ+ identities and mental health cannot be overstated. Stigma, discrimination, and marginalization can heighten mental health risks among LGBTQ+ individuals, contributing to higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide. In fact, the American Psychological Association (APA) reports that LGBTQ+ people are more than twice as likely to experience a mental health disorder in their lifetime.
The Trevor Project collected this troubling data:
- 45% of LGBTQ young people seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year. The rates were higher among young people who are transgender, nonbinary, and/or people of color
- 14% of LGBTQ young people attempted suicide in the past year, with higher rates among transgender and nonbinary young people
- 60% of LGBTQ young people who wanted mental health care in the past year were not able to get it
Furthermore, many federally funded surveys have only recently started to ask about sexual orientation and gender identification in their data collections. Surveys thus far have found that sexual minorities have higher rates of substance misuse and substance use disorders (SUDs) than people who identify as heterosexual.
Additional research shows that LGBTQ+ young people have significantly higher rates of eating disorders and also higher rates of attempting suicide compared to heterosexual and cisgender populations. When we consider intersectional identities for LGBTQ+ folx belonging to communities or color, studies show that the risks of eating disorders and mental health diagnoses are even higher (coupled with lower likelihood of ever receiving treatment).
The Importance of Diversity in Mental Health Treatment
A crucial step toward better mental health outcomes is embracing diversity in mental health treatment. This requires a shift from a one-size-fits-all approach to a culturally competent model that acknowledges and addresses the unique experiences and challenges of LGBTQ+ individuals.
A number of organizations are leading the charge to incorporate LGBTQ+ sensitive approaches into mental health care. The National LGBTQIA+ Health Education Center provides educational programs, resources, and consultations to health care organizations with a goal of optimizing quality, cost-effective health care for LGBTQ+ people.
The APA also emphasizes the importance of gender-affirming and culturally-attuned care. Their guidelines recommend that mental health professionals adopt an affirmative stance towards LGBTQ+ identities and relationships and understand the health risks and disparities specific to this community.
Embracing Innovation and Community Support
Fortunately, innovative solutions are emerging to support diverse mental health needs. For example, community-focused resources such as The Trevor Project provides lifesaving and life-affirming resources for LGBTQ+ youth. Their crisis intervention and suicide prevention services are tailored specifically for younger members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Additional resources can be found in our gender inclusion statement.
Reflecting on Pride Month and Looking Ahead
This Pride Month, it’s crucial to reaffirm our commitment to embracing diversity in mental health treatment. Culturally competent care, education for health professionals, and supportive community resources are all vital elements in fostering mental wellness among LGBTQ+ individuals.
Recognizing and celebrating diversity involves more than lip service. It involves affirming the identities and experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals and advocating for mental health care that respects and responds to each person’s unique needs.
Inclusion, respect, and understanding are pillars of mental health care. As we celebrate Pride Month, let’s also remember to champion these values in the provision of mental health services. Together, let’s make a commitment to devoting time before the month is over to educate ourselves and explore some of the resources shared in this blog post.In doing so, we can work toward a future where everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, has access to the mental health care they need.