We live in a society that, sadly, even now, considers the LGBTQIA+ experience to be ‘abnormal’ or unacceptable. The effect this hostility can have on the mental health of those who identify themselves outside of what society considers ‘normal’ can be traumatic. Identifying as an individual of the LGBTQIA+ community is not a mental illness or a disorder; however, society makes it seem like it is. This can cause a lot of suffocation, mental health illness and fear in the individuals who cannot fit into the mainstream ideas of sexuality, gender, and sexual orientation. Now more than ever, it is important to be vocal about the mental health struggles faced by the individuals belonging to the community so that they can access safe spaces to feel visible, heard, and loved without judgment.
MENTAL HEALTH STATUS WITHIN THE LGBTQIA+ COMMUNITY
According to National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI), adults with homosexual or bisexual orientation risk of facing a mental health condition twice more than individuals belonging to heterosexual orientations. Transgender individuals can face mental health conditions four times more than cisgender individuals. With supportive families and friends, these individuals can find a space where they are free to be who they are and, ultimately, be happy. That is why each individual must be treated with kindness, love, and acceptance. The struggles regarding mental health come from several factors that make it difficult for LGBTQIA+ individuals, making them feel depressed, anxious, and even suicidal.
First, the shaming and the bullying from the society against particular identities and the trauma it induces can make individuals feel unaccepted and scared to come out. In an extremely homophobic, transphobic or biphobic society, individuals identifying as queer may face trauma, PTSD, or suicidal tendencies.
Second, in most homophobic, transphobic, or biphobic societies, individuals belonging to the LGBTQIA+ can feel unwelcome. They are sometimes denied opportunities and access and face discrimination solely based on their identities. They are met with judgment and bigoted comments, and dealing with these experiences daily is a major reason why the individuals from the community end up with deteriorating mental health conditions.
Third, most individuals belonging to the LGBTQIA+ are victims of hate crimes or ostracisation, adding to the fear of coming out and rejection already present in the community. This can make LGBTQIA+ individuals feel scared, lonely, and unhappy, causing poor mental health conditions.
IDENTITY AND MENTAL HEALTH
Identity is what we all are, and it is a huge part of our lives. It is evident that we are treated based on our identities almost all the time, and our identities sometimes become a major factor when accessing opportunities and facilities. Our identity is who we are, and each individual must get to express their identities without judgment. Expressing our true identities can make us feel whole, accepted, loved and free. Every person is entitled to this freedom. If the society surrounding the LGBTQIA+ community is hostile towards their identities, they find it difficult to accept themselves or come out without the fear of possible homelessness and loneliness.
WHAT CAN WE DO TO HELP?
Being empathetic and understanding the space LGBTQIA+ individuals come from is the first step to helping provide a safe space for these individuals. Acceptance and kindness are what each person who struggles with accepting their identity needs, and as a society, we can help provide that comfortable environment. Asking open-ended questions and educating oneself on the struggles faced by the LGBTQIA+ is important to help open avenues for discussions and change within the society. We should be kind in our words and actions to each other, without judgment, regardless of identities. Helping each person feel heard and seen is important. We can also help connect LGBTQIA+ individuals who struggle with mental health issues and identity crises with professionals who can help them accept who they are and face the adversities that surround them.
More importantly, it is necessary to be a supportive friend, family member, and companion to anyone who struggles with their mental health and finds it difficult to come out. It is important to remind each individual that they are never alone so that they do not face isolation within society.
A SAFE SPACE: PRIDE
The month of June is designated as Pride Month. The history of pride focuses on providing a safe and non-judgemental space for the individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+. The importance of such a space can be seen when it helps significantly reduces the isolation of individuals who are queer and amplify the experiences of the LGBTQIA+ community.
It is important to treat everyone with kindness and love regardless of the diversity that surrounds us. The experiences of the people and the mental health struggle the individuals from the LGBTQIA+ community face need amplification, and we must help with it.