In recent years, positive cultural changes have helped remove some of the stigma that may come with identifying as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersexed or asexual (LGBTQIA). Globally, average levels of social acceptance for the LGBT community and their rights have increased since 1981, according to the Williams Institute at the UCLA School of Law.
However, even with this progress, LGBTQIA+ individuals may still experience discrimination and intolerance from their families, communities, and society at large. That can push LGBTQ individuals into silence, and in turn, increase their risk of mental health issues and suicide, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI).
If you or a loved one identifies as LGBTQIA+, here’s what you should know about mental health.
LGBTQ Mental Health by the Numbers
Being LGBTQIA+ 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.
In comparison to heterosexual individuals, LGB individuals are two times more likely to have a mental health disorder and transgender individuals are four times more likely to experience a mental illness when compared to cisgender individuals. Evidence has highlighted the increased risk of mental illness in the LGBTQ population, specifically depression, anxiety, and posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Among LGB adults between 18 and 25 years old, 33 percent had a depressive episode in 2019. Among those 26 and older, up to 22 percent had a depressive episode during the same time period. Those numbers rose from 31 and 19 percent, respectively, the year prior.
Posttraumatic Stress Disorder
Estimates of PTSD in the LGBTQ+ community has been cited to be up to 4 times higher than those identifying as heterosexual or cisgender. This has been attributed to bullying, discrimination, abuse, intolerance, and/or hate crimes.
More than one in four LGB adults have had suicidal thoughts, and in one survey, 40 percent of LGBTQ youth seriously contemplated suicide during 2020. High school students who identify as LGB are more than four times as likely than heterosexual students to have attempted suicide, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Further, the rate of attempted suicide among transgender adults is nine times higher than the general American population.
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 LGBTQIA+ 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 another mental health condition. Ask if pharmacogenetic testing (PGx), like Genomind’s, 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 be more or less likely to have side effects
- Which medications may be more or less likely to be effective
- How you metabolize medications for personalized dosing guidance
The Genomind PGx test requires a prescription.
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), soon to be 988, or Lifeline Chat.
Does Your Medication Work for You?
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