Every June, people across the world rally together to celebrate Pride.
Pride started in 1979 as a protest but, since then, it has evolved to become a celebration of inclusion, love and self-expression.
By marking it every year, we celebrate how love has no boundaries. But as we wave rainbow flags and march in the glitter-filled parades, it’s also worth remembering the numerous hurdles that the LGBT+ community still face today.
Between homophobia, stigma, discrimination and difficult coming out experiences, LGBT+ people have to deal with a lot of complicated obstacles growing up. And, unsurprisingly, this can take its toll on the community’s mental health.
Anyone can experience a mental health problem. In fact, one in four of us will struggle with a mental health problem in our lives. But those of us who are LGBT+ are more likely to develop problems such as:
In fact, in 2017 the London health Assembly Committee found that 40% of LGBT may experience a mental health issue, compared with 35% of the population as a whole.
LGBT+ mental health: the statistics
Want to learn more about LGBT+ mental health? In its 2018 ‘LGBT in Britain report’, Stonewall published these staggering findings:
- Half of LGBT people (52%) admitted that they’ve experienced depression in 2018
- One in eight LGBT people aged 18-24 (13%) said they’ve attempted to take their own life in 2018.
- Almost half of trans people (46%) thought about taking their own life in 2018. 31% per cent of LGB people who aren’t trans said the same
- One in six LGBT people (16%) said they drank alcohol almost every day over the
9 ways to support someone who is LGBT+
It can be hard to watch someone you love struggle with their mental health. So in honour of Pride Month, we’ve compiled a few tips to help you be a good ally and support the mental health of your LGBT+ friends and family.
Many LGBT+ people feel silenced growing up. They might be afraid of discrimination or shame. So don’t make assumptions about what they’re going through.
Give them space to openly talk about their experiences, and listen without judgement. Then take it upon yourself to learn about LGBTQ+ history, terminology, and the struggles they face today.
You can ask them polite questions but don’t put the burden on them to educate you. Be sure to question any biases or assumptions you may have too.
Validate their identity
We all want to feel accepted. So respect the identity of the LGBT+ people in your life by validating the way they live, love and identify. Remember language matters. So if you’re unsure of someone’s pronoun or label, ask them.
Listen to what they have to say
Mental health problems often fester when they’re not talked about so if you think an LGBT+ friend is struggling be sure to lend a listening ear. Being able to vent about what they’re going through might be a cathartic experience.
Be sure you listen attentively. Really pay attention to what the other person has to say and try to read between the lines too. Try and uncover if there’s a deeper message.
Show them you care
Not only do some LGBT+ people face discrimination and stigma, but some may also struggle with internalised homophobia, biphobia or transphobia. For this reason, many LGBT+ people struggle with low self-esteem.
You might think it seems obvious that you care about them, but they may not realise this. So take a minute to show them how much you care. You could cook them a meal, write them a letter or take them out for a day.
Sometimes when we’re feeling low, we could all do with a cuppa and a chat. So try to squeeze in some quality time with your loved one.
Older LGBT people are especially vulnerable to loneliness because they are more likely to be single, live alone, and have fewer connections with relatives. So your presence could make the world of difference.
Have their back
Be assertive and challenge any discrimination towards LGBT+ people. Anti-LGBT+ ‘jokes’ or comments can do real damage, so call them out when you hear them. Remember, being an ‘ally’ is about actions, as much as words.
Don’t “out” them
For many LGBT folks, coming ‘out’ and letting loved ones know about their identity is a momentous chapter in their lives. Navigating when to be ‘out’ is a highly personal choice and everyone has the right to do this in their own time when they feel comfortable and safe.
There are many contexts and situations where your loved one may choose not to be so open about their identity. Respect their decision and don’t ‘out’ them without their permission. Follow their lead and support how they choose to express themselves. Everyone deserves to feel safe.
Take care of yourself
Looking after someone who is struggling with their mental health can be stressful, exhausting and sometimes distressing. So take time to check in on your mental health too. Do something that rejuvenates or relaxes you and make self-care a priority. Remember it’s not selfish to look after yourself. If anything, it will give you the energy and resilience you need to look after others.
Learn about specific mental health problems
Is your loved one suffering from anxiety, depression or OCD? Surf the web and do a bit of research so you know the best way to support them emotionally.
Guide them towards LGBT+ charities and support groups
LGBT+ people face unique challenges and obstacles. So sometimes you won’t have all the answers — and that’s okay. Gently guide them towards charities such as Stonewall, Mind Out or Switchboard LGBT+, who might be able to offer them specialised support or a sense of community. And, if you can spare a few quid, be sure to donate.
Support their mental health
One in four of us will experience a mental health problem in our lives. But LGBT+ people are twice as likely to experience depression or anxiety and they’re at a higher risk of substance abuse and suicide. With this in mind, if you think a loved one is struggling with their mental health, it might be worth trying pointing them towards an LGBT+ friendly therapist.
Therapy will give them the safe, judgement-free space they need to untangle what they’re going through. In time, your loved one might connect the dots and better understand their mental health problems. Better yet, they might learn better ways to cope. Nowadays, many therapists are specially trained to deal with LGBT+ issues so they’ll do their best to make them feel comfortable and heard.