In recent years, positive cultural changes have helped remove some of the stigma that may come with identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, or queer (LGBTQ). In fact, between 2000 and 2017, Americans were increasingly accepting of LGBTQ people and rights, according to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.
But even with this progress, LGBTQ individuals may still experience discrimination and intolerance from their families, communities, and society at large. That’s one reason LGBTQ people are at higher risk of mental health issues and suicide, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
If you or a loved one identifies as LGBTQ, here’s what you should know about mental health.
LGBTQ Mental Health by the Numbers
Being LGBTQ is not a mental health disorder. But for a variety of reasons, including stigma and discrimination, it can increase your risk for depression, suicide, substance use, or other mental health issues.
Among LGB adults between 18 and 25 years old, 31 percent had a depressive episode in the past year, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). Among those 26 and older, up to 19 percent had a depressive episode in the past year.
More than one in four LGB adults have had suicidal thoughts, according to SAMHSA.
Transgender adults are at the highest risk. The rate of attempted suicide among transgender adults is nine times higher than the general American population, according to the National Center for Transgender Equality.
About 70 percent of LGB adults have struggled with alcohol use in the past year, and almost 50 percent have used illicit drugs in the past year, according to SAMHSA.
The Effects of Intolerance
Despite the strides we’ve made in ending LGBTQ stigma, intolerance remains embedded within certain communities and institutions.
“Many LGBT people—particularly youth and seniors—experience higher rates of rejection, bullying, harassment, general mistreatment, and even violence from the people and institutions that should be protecting them," says Delores A. Jacobs, former chief executive officer at the San Diego LGBT Community Center. “The enormous effort of ... hiding in order to avoid rejection from their families, employers, churches, schools, friends, and neighbors can create an even greater sense of anxiety, fear, and isolation.”
Even those who have removed themselves from sources of intolerance and have found supportive communities may still be deeply affected by their formative experiences.
Hope and Healing in Finding Treatment
The good news: There are mental health treatment options that can help you. Start by talking to your primary care doctor, or look for a clinician who has experience working with LGBTQ individuals. Someone with this type of expertise can help you explore how gender identity and sexuality may affect your physical and mental health.
In some cases, your clinician may recommend medication for depression, anxiety, or other mental health condition. Ask if pharmacogenetic testing (PGx) can help personalize your treatment.
Genomind® Professional PGx Express™ looks at 24 genes related to mental health treatment. It provides guidance across 10 mental health conditions and 130 medications to help your clinician determine:
- Which medications may have side effects
- Which medications will likely be the most effective
- How you metabolize medications for personalized dosing guidance
If you’re experiencing an emergency, call 911 for immediate help. You can also find urgent support from the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or Lifeline Chat.
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