How To Support The Mental Health of LGBTQ+ Individuals
Many people who identify as LGBTQ+ struggle with their mental health and wellbeing.
Research has shown that these individuals are twice as likely to suffer from a mental health condition such as anxiety or depression than the general population.
Whilst there can be a variety of factors why a person may suffer from a mental health problem, those within the LGBTQ+ communities experience extra difficulties within society.
From facing discrimination because of their sexuality or gender identity, struggling with coming out, navigating through relationships, bullying, social isolation or rejection and so forth.
It’s so important that people are aware of how to support the mental health of these individuals, especially whilst at university as younger members of the LGBTQ+ community struggle more with their mental health.
Carry on reading to find out!
What Does It Mean To Be LGBTQ+
You will have heard of the acronym LGBT, which stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender.
However, a few more terms have been added in recent times with the inclusive term LGBTQ+ standing for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and plus.
This acronym is a way for someone to describe their sexual orientation or gender identity.
You can find out more about what it means to identify as an LGBTQ+ on the cosmopolitan website.
Tips For Supporting The Mental Health Of LGBTQ+ Individuals
Studies show that more than 1.3 million people in England and Wales identify as lesbian, gay or bisexual.
It’s so important to learn how to support the mental health of LGBTQ+ individuals so you can best support people around you who are part of the community.
It may even be that someone has not come out publicly yet.
So, it’s always best to be understanding and sensitive to their experiences and get to grips with supporting their mental health.
Whether it’s a friend, a family member, a partner or so on, here’s how you can support their emotional wellbeing.
1. Listen To Their Feelings & Experiences
Our first tip for how to support the mental health of LGBTQ+ individuals is to listen to their feelings and experiences.
Let them know you’re there to support them without judgement and give them your full attention.
We’d suggest not to interrupt them or try and downplay their experiences.
Whilst something may seem small to you, you never know how someone feels so don’t invalidate them or what they’ve been through.
Likewise, we’d also suggest not expecting people in your life to talk to you about their mental health or experiences.
Not everyone is open to talking about their personal struggles, gender identity or sexual orientation and that’s completely fine.
If you have a friend, family member or someone else in your life who identifies as LGBTQ+, just let them know you are there for them and are here to listen if they want to share anything.
It can be challenging to be open to conversations that you might not be used to if you aren’t LGBTQ+ as you cannot relate to their experiences, but you can still be someone’s support network.
2. Respect Their Confidentiality
Respecting LGBTQ+ individuals’ confidentiality is super important when they’ve opened up to you about their struggles.
If someone opens up to you about their mental health, feelings or experiences they share this information with you in confidence and it’s not your story to tell.
It’s important that they feel like they have a safe space for them to talk about their struggles or experiences openly.
This is especially important if someone has come out to you about their sexual orientation or gender identity.
It’s something they’ve told you with trust, and they will share with other people what they want, when and how they want to.
Whilst you may be supportive and understanding of their sexual and gender identity, unfortunately not everyone within society may be the same.
So, never share someone else’s story, it’s theirs to tell, no one else’s.
3. Educate Yourself
Educating yourself on the LGBTQ+ communities and identities is so important for supporting mental health.
You may not be aware about the challenges and discrimination that individuals who identify as a member of the community face.
It may even be that you have your own assumptions and perceptions which are false, so it’s vital you research and find out more.
LGBTQ+ people shouldn’t have to act as a textbook for educating people about the history or issues of the community, as a friend or a support network, you should educate yourself off your own back.
There are tons of resources out there whether it’s searching about the history of LGBT people online, watching videos, listening to podcasts or reading books.
How ever you educate yourself on the history and struggles of the community, it’s an important step to being supportive and aware, as well as a good ally.
4. Show People They Can Be Authentic Around You
Part of being supportive to those who identify as LGBTQ+ is about creating a safe space for them to be their authentic self without fear of discrimination or judgement.
LGBTQ+ individuals may experience anxiety or low moods about meeting new people, developing new friendships or relationships or even going to new places due to their fears of discrimination or judgement.
It may even be that they haven’t come out yet about their sexuality or gender identity.
So, you should let people know they can be exactly who they are around you and that you are open to everyone expressing themselves authentically, if they want to of course.
Respecting the identity of LGBTQ+ individuals is also about using their chosen gender pronouns or chosen names if they are transgender or non-binary.
You should also share your pronouns with others to show you’re an ally and to reduce the risk of mis gendering.
Never assume people’s pronouns without asking them first as being referred to as the incorrect pronoun can be hurtful.
5. Be A Good Ally
Showing your support for the mental health of LGBTQ+ individuals isn’t just about being there to listen or educating yourself.
It’s also about showing up and giving support for the wider community, not just the people you know.
To be an ally, you need to put your words into actions and be consistent with your support for the community.
A few ways you can do this is by attending pride events during pride month, supporting LGBTQ+ businesses, going to gay clubs or donating to charities.
Being an ally means speaking out against homophobia, transphobia as well any other anti-LGBT harassment or discrimination that can negatively affect the mental health of those who identify as LGBTQ+.
If you hear someone being discriminatory towards anyone from the LGBTQ+ community or using slurs, try to teach them and pass on the information that you know, rather than getting into conflict.
If you see something, say something, but don’t get yourself into any dangerous situations.
Being an ally also means that you may also make mistakes but it’s about being open to learning from them.
6. Remember Everyone’s Mental Health Is Different
Those who identify as LGBTQ+ are more likely to struggle with poor mental health but it’s important to remember that everyone is different, everyone has different feelings and experiences.
Mental health challenges will impact everyone differently so it’s important to be respectful and responsive to your LGBTQ+ friends, family members or anyone else in your life.
Supporting mental health issues of LGBTQ+ individuals should be seen as the same way you support anyone’s wellbeing, there’s just a few things you need to remember.
You shouldn’t view them as different or think that every person who identifies as part of the community is struggling, as not every LGBTQ+ individual will experience mental health problems.
7. Help Them Seek Mental Health Support
If you have any mental health concerns for an LGBTQ+ person, recommend they speak to a professional who can offer support.
Whether it’s talking with their GP about mental health services or speaking to someone on campus for advice.
It may be useful to recommend a confidential mental health support helpline if they’re not ready to come out or disclose their sexual orientation or gender identity yet.
We’d also suggest not reaching out to the person’s family for advice if your friend is feeling low, as this could cause a negative reaction.
Perhaps they’re not out to their family yet, or they aren’t accepting of their sexuality or gender identity.
It’s best to encourage them to seek professional support instead or recommend they join peer support groups.
Here are some useful mental health organisations for young people within the LGBTQ+ community:
- Stonewall – Offers help and advice for LGBTQ+ individuals and their allies.
- Albert Kennedy Trust – Offers support to young LGBTQ+ people between 16 to 25.