Pride Month, a time for fun, joy and celebration, but it’s also a time for reflection, education and raising awareness. LGBTIQ+ stands for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer/questioning and the ‘+’ encompasses all those who are gender diverse. Although the LGBTIQ+ community is a high-risk group for developing a mental health issue, it’s important to note that this isn’t a direct correlation to being LGBTIQ+ but as a result of the discrimination, social isolation and rejection they can endure from society and even friends and family.
No one should be made to feel this way, especially for simply being who they are. Here’s a guide on how to find LGBTQ+ mental health support and how to help your LGBTIQ+ friends, family and colleagues.
The LGBTIQ+ Community and Mental Health
As previously mentioned, being LGBTIQ+ can heighten the likelihood of developing a mental health issue. Anyone can develop a mental health issue, but those in the LGBTIQ+ community are more likely to experience:
- Low self-esteem
- Eating problems
- Suicidal and/or self-harming thoughts
- Drug and alcohol use
These are just a few of the problems that can occur, just like people’s personalities and life experiences being different, everyone’s mental health looks completely different too, so this isn’t so much a checklist but more of a guide to recognising the signs. However, it might be worth noting that, according to research:
- Bisexual people are at an increased risk of mental health problems compared to gay men and lesbians
- Transgender people are at an increased risk of eating and body image disorders
These issues could be the result of LGBTIQ+ members feeling as though they can’t be their authentic selves due to fears of judgement and not being accepted by those closest to them. As a result, this can have a large impact on their mental health and can cause some of the issues listed above.
Being bullied and ostracised is something that would greatly affect anyone, but enduring this treatment because of something you cannot change, such as your sexuality or gender identity, is a heavy burden for the mind. The fear of this treatment itself can cause the above mental health issues as the individual tries to bury and hide who they really are on the inside. But there might also be other reasons that are impacting LGBTIQ+ mental health, such as:
- Gender identity
- Socio-economic background
- Physical abilities
Again, these are just some of the factors that could be affecting someone who’s LGBTIQ+, putting them at greater risk of mental health issues. Even with supportive family and friends, LGBTIQ+ people will likely experience some degree of prejudice or discrimination. This becomes dangerous for the person’s mental health when they start to believe the negative things others may say about them, creating internalised stigma. If you see this happening to an LGBTIQ+ person or recognise it’s happening to yourself, you should:
- Report it to the authorities (if it’s safe to do so)
- Pursue LGBTIQ+ rights
- Contact a LGBTIQ+ service or advocacy
During these difficult times where the weight of your own thoughts and feelings as well as others’ judgement tries to bring you down, it’s essential that LGBTIQ+ people remember that they’re not alone and that there is support out there for their mental health.
You’re Not Alone – Where to Find Support
Everyone deserves love, respect and support, no matter their background or sexual and gender identity. If you’re a friend, family member, or mental health first aider looking to help a LGBTIQ+ person with their mental health, you can do this by:
- Appropriately and correctly acknowledging the person’s LGBTIQ+ experience
- Asking what help the person needs rather than making assumptions based on their LGBTIQ+ experience
- Showing your support by respecting the choices the person makes about clothing, name and pronouns, even if you don’t understand
- Listening to the person and not feeling that you need to have answers or provide advice
And it’s important that you:
- Don’t offer your opinion on the person’s LGBTIQ+ experience unless it’s invited
- Don’t express judgement
- Don’t refer to your own religious or moral beliefs about LGBTIQ+ people
- Don’t give the impression that being LGBTIQ+ is a deviation from the “norm”
- Don’t be patronising
It’s crucial to remember that everyone is different, some LGBTIQ+ people may be very open about their feelings and LGBTIQ+ experience, while others may find it very challenging just to talk about their mental health let alone coming out or disclosing their sexuality and gender identity. Be patient and don’t project any feelings or personal experiences on them, let them explain their emotions and experiences in their own words.
If you’re an LGBTIQ+ person who recognises that they’re in need of support from a mental health professional there are a wide variety of LGBTIQ+ charities and organisations you could get in contact with to help you. However, it’s important that you do your research and find the right service or professional for you and your LGBTIQ+ experience, such as someone that specialises in transgender-friendly or intersex-friendly service. Here are just some of the amazing LGBTIQ+ charities across Wales:
LGBT+ Cymru Helpline
LGBT+ Cymru Helpline offers support and guidance around various issues that an LGBTIQ+ person, their friends or family may experience. They offer counselling and advice around abuse, discrimination, coming out, relationships and legal support.
With over 30 years of experience, Stonewall has helped LGBTIQ+ people across Wales, the UK and beyond change their lives. Their campaigns drive positive change in public attitude and policy, and their website has a wide variety of toolkits and resources for anyone and everyone.
Umbrella Cymru are gender and sexual diversity support specialists who offer a range of support services to LGBTIQ+ people. You can request support for yourself or someone close to you and Umbrella Cymru will help you every step of the way.
How Celebrating Pride Month Could Help
Another way to celebrate the LGBTIQ+ community is by celebrating Pride Month. Held every June in the UK, Pride Month is a time of joy and acceptance, the streets are lined with bright, happy colours, soulful music plays and people march in honour of themselves and the LGBTIQ+ community. Taking part in the festivities and celebrating amongst friends and loved ones can be a great way to get out of the house, heighten confidence and self-worth, and most importantly have fun and be yourself.
There are a variety of Pride parades taking place across the UK, the most popular and well-known being London Pride. But there’s some amazing celebrations taking place right here in Wales, here’s some more information:
- Cardiff Pride: Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th
- Cowbridge Pride Saturday 24th
- Caerphilly Pride Saturday 24th
- Abergavenny Pride: Saturday 24th
Hopefully some of this advice will help you or the LGBTIQ+ person in your life feel supported and gain access to the mental health and wellbeing aid that they need. We all have mental health just as we all have physical health, so always be sure to seek help with the right people or services if needed.
To find out more about us, the types of training we provide, or book a course through one of our licensed instructors, visit our website and invest in your wellbeing and the mental health of those around you.