Depression is an important issue in the LGBTQ community.
We believe there isn’t a more important time than Pride Month–observed in June to recognize the contributions of LGBTQ individuals on our shared history–to talk about depression and its impact.
LGBTQ individuals are 2.5 times more likely to experience depression compared to heterosexual individuals. Approximately 31% of LGBTQ older adults report depressive symptoms and 39% report serious thoughts of taking their own lives. NAMI suggests the “fear of coming out and being discriminated against for sexual orientation and gender identities, can lead to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, thoughts of suicide and substance abuse.”
These are more than just statistics; there are very human stories behind them. One of our team members, John-Michael Criswell, recently shared his reason for becoming a mental health advocate:
“I first became interested in the GeneSight® test after a string of suicides rocked my world. My first and only close friend in Lexington, Kentucky took his own life the same month that I began the interview process. I know he tried and failed multiple medications and struggled with bipolar depression, but he gave up out of frustration…
It was at that moment when my job of selling cardiovascular testing became meaningless. The mental health space was where I knew I wanted to work and learn. The GeneSight test could have helped him.
Since starting here, I have a conviction to help solve the crisis – especially in my own community.”
Mental Health and LGBTQ Individuals
Until 1973, homosexuality was categorized as a mental disorder by the American Psychiatric Association (APA). Since then, all major professional mental health organizations have affirmed that homosexuality is not a mental disorder. However, gender dysphoria, previously called gender identity disorder, is listed as a disorder by the APA.
Members of the LGBTQ community often share experiences like stigma, sexual and physical assault, and bullying that are a threat to their health and well-being. According to the Canadian Psychiatric Association (CPA), this kind of marginalization and discrimination can lead to serious mental health issues, including depression.
Furthermore, this can impact the way LGBTQ people living with depression are regarded. “People who identify as LGBTQ who also happen to have mental health issues often experience a double stigma or dual alienation in which they feel they are not accepted within the mental health community because of their LGBTQ identities and are also not accepted within the LGBTQ community because of their mental health issues,” the CPA states.
Supporting LGBTQ Rights and Needs
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Healthy People 2020 report included a companion article specific to Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Health. The article outlines what HHS sees as continuing issues, with key highlights including:
- “Prevention of violence and homicide toward the LGBT community, and especially the transgender population
- Need for a LGBT wellness model
- Recognition of transgender health needs as medically necessary “
The report stops short of requiring specific steps be taken to address these issues, however, there are things everyone can do to make a difference in the mental health of LGBTQ individuals:
- At home: Studies have established a clear link between a family’s rejection or acceptance of an LGBTQ young adult and that person’s long-term mental and physical health. Accepting and celebrating people of diverse gender identities and sexual orientations is the first step toward ending harmful stigma.
- At the Doctor’s Office: Clinicians are essential in addressing depression specific to gender and sexual orientation. Healthcare providers should work to have an increased understanding of the challenges that the LGBTQ community face. According to the Center for American Progress, “general practitioners trained in noticing and responding to the first signs of mental health issues in LGBTQ youth are an invaluable asset in the effort to mitigate the damaging effects of severe depression and other mental health problems that LGBT youth often experience.”
- In the Community: LGBTQ organizations must work to address the stigma of depression and to work with local mental health services to support their community.
LGBTQ Mental Health Resources
If you, a friend or family member is struggling with depression, reach out. Help is available. There are many organizations that offer mental health support specific to the LGBTQ community. Here are some of our favorites.
NAMI, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, is the nation’s largest grassroots mental health organization dedicated to building better lives for the millions of Americans affected by mental illness. NAMI encourages LGBTQ people to take care of their mental health and offers help with locating mental health care providers, and tips on how to talk to a therapist.
Mental Health America works locally and nationally to raise awareness about mental health and ensures that those at-risk for mental illnesses and related disorders receive proper, timely and effective treatment. MHA offers unique educational materials created specifically for the LGBTQ audience.
The Trevor Project is a multimedia support network for LGBTQ youth providing crisis intervention and suicide prevention.
The Association of LGBTQ Psychiatrists works within the APA to influence policies relevant to the lesbian and gay community, collaborates with other organizations of gay and lesbian physicians and mental health professionals, and provides referral services for lesbian and gay patients. They offer a list of helpful links to individual and community resources.
The Human Rights Campaign is the largest national lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer civil rights organization. They have called for “open, honest discussions about mental health with young people, a key step to reducing stigma and empowering them to seek help and support when needed.”
As we celebrate Pride Month let us be mindful of the disproportionate number of members of the LGBTQ community who are struggling with depression, and commit ourselves to working towards a solution, greater understanding and respect.
Our blog offers information and resources for depression. Keep reading: https://genesight.com/media/