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Making Mental Health a Priority During Pride Month    

Making Mental Health a Priority During Pride Month

Art by FISK

By The Local Optimist Team

Every June, Pride Month offers a celebration of SELF for the LGBTQ+ community. However you identify and whoever you love, you’re welcome to join in the parties, parades, and panels commemorating the Stonewall Riots of 1969 and honoring the massive cultural and social contributions of the LGTBQ+ community (where do we even begin?). The month-long celebration is an essential antidote to shame and stigma, but it also gives us an important opportunity to explore how enduring both of those experiences can impact the community’s collective well-being.

At TLO, where mental health awareness is always our number one, we believe that amidst the joy and optimism of Pride we can also grapple with the work that is still left to do to ensure that everyone in the LGBTQ+ community is able to access and receive culturally affirming support in whatever capacity they need.

While some huge strides have been made on the mental health front (horrifyingly, homosexuality was classified as a mental illness until 1973 in the DSM), a large portion of the LGBTQ+ community reports struggling with mental illness each year. In fact, lesbian, gay and bisexual adults are more than twice as likely as their heterosexual counterparts to experience a mental health condition, according to research from NAMI. That number rises with transgender individuals, who are nearly four times as likely as cisgender people to experience a mental health condition. And for young people in the LGBTQ+ community, feelings of sadness, hopelessness and suicidality are found to be even higher.

Contributing to this silent crisis are the healthcare disparities that LGBTQ+ individuals face due to continued societal stigma, discrimination, and the frequent denial of their civil and human rights. Many clinicians lack the cultural sensitivity and understanding of specific medical needs that people in this community require, making them hesitant to seek out care (or disappointed when they do). Whether or not someone’s family or friends accepts their sexual orientation and gender identity also plays a huge role in their overall mental health, as do higher rates of sexual harassment, experiences of violence, and hate crimes.

For people in the LGBTQ+ community who are also part of other marginalized communities, including those who are BIPOC or living with a physical disability, the difficulty of finding clinicians who understand their complex experiences makes them less likely to seek out treatment when needed.

We know that transforming this will require the participation of forces larger than any one person, but there are steps we can all take now to start moving the needle. Whether you’re part of the LGBTQ+ community or an ally, there are resources you can take advantage of to find better mental health care or educate yourself on how to support the overall well-being of the LGBTQ+ community. To kick off Pride Month with mental health at the forefront, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite action steps and resources below.

Educate yourself.

The Trevor Project’s Lifeguard Workshop offers free video training and curriculum for anyone who works with young people and wants to learn more about LGBTQ-competent suicide prevention. They also provide a great template for students interested in bringing this same training to their school.

For therapists hoping to better serve the LGBTQ+ community, Queer LifeSpace’s 12-month Clinical Training Program provides clinicians with the knowledge and tools to offer culturally affirming psychotherapy and eliminate bias.

For those outside the mental healthcare world, making a point to learn more about the experiences of LGBTQ+ individuals is still key to lessening stigma and discrimination. The non-profit Mental Health America’s fact sheet and educational materials list is a great place to start, followed by the Human Rights Campaign’s informative article database for allies

Become an advocate

The Trevor Project is one of the top advocacy organizations in the U.S., fighting for everything from LGBTQ+ friendly policies in the military to ending conversion therapy in all 50 states. To help support their mission, you can sign up to learn how you can play a role in promoting proper legislation and volunteer to work as a crisis counselor for LGBTQ+ youth struggling with coming out, depression and suicide.

For young people within the LGBTQ+ community looking for ways to support their peers, It Gets Better offers a youth ambassador program for people ages 13-18 that involves participating in widespread storytelling and advice efforts as well as strategic program planning to connect with other LGBTQ+ youth. Apply here by June 30th to join their ambassador class of 2022.

Find therapy that works for you.

For those within the LGBTQ+ community, finding a therapist or clinician who understands your specific needs and experiences ensures that you’ll be in safe, effective hands. This guide from Human Rights Campaign and the Child Mind Institute outlines the type of therapies that are found to be the most effective by LGBTQ+ individuals along with advice for finding a culturally affirming therapist (more on that here, too).

One of our favorite resources for finding a therapist who truly gets it is the National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network which is fighting to ensure that the LGBTQ+ community of color is reflected in the therapeutic process. Check out their community resource list to find everything from online support groups to therapist networks geared towards different backgrounds.

Keep the conversation going by commenting on this story below. You can also connect with us about whatever’s on your mind by texting The Local Optimist Hotline at 310.299.9414.