LGBTQ Social Issues

Mental Health

LGBTQ individuals are nearly three times more likely than others to experience a mental health condition such as major depression or generalized anxiety disorder. The fear of coming out and being discriminated against for sexual orientation and gender identities, can lead to depression, post traumatic stress disorder and thoughts of suicide. LGBTQ people must often confront stigma and prejudice based on their sexual orientation or gender identity while also dealing with the societal bias against mental health conditions. Some people report having to hide their sexual orientation from those in the mental health system for fear of being ridiculed or rejected. The effects of this double or dual stigma can be particularly harmful, especially when someone seeks treatment. Often termed “minority stress,” disparities in the LGBTQ community stem from a variety of factors including social stigma, denial of civil and human rights, discrimination, prejudice, abuse, harassment, victimization, social exclusion and family rejection. Rates of mental health conditions are particularly high in bisexual and questioning individuals and those who fear or choose not to reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity (NAMI, National Alliance on Mental Illness, https://www.nami.org/).

Suicide

For LGBTQ people ages 10–24, suicide is one of the leading causes of death (citation). LGBTQ youth are four times more likely and questioning youth are three times more likely to attempt suicide, experience suicidal thoughts or engage in self-harm than straight people. Between 38-65% of transgender individuals experience suicidal ideation (thoughts of suicide). Family support plays a particularly important role in affecting the likelihood of suicide. Someone who faces rejection after coming out to their family is eight times more likely to have attempted suicide than someone who is accepted by their family after revealing their sexual orientation (https://www.nami.org/).

Bullying/Experience with Violence

Compared with other students, negative attitudes toward LGBTQ persons may put these youth at increased risk for experiences with violence, which can include bullying, teasing, harassment, and physical assault. Across various studies reviewed, co-author Tasseli McKay told The Daily Beast that their team looked at a combined sample of 73,000 LGBTQ youth, discovering that rates of school bullying have reached “unprecedented highs.” Statistics from 1992 to the present indicate that, “LGBTQ students are two to three times more likely than their peers to be physically assaulted or threatened at school.” This victimization doubles and in many cases quadruples the likelihood that a young person will attempt to take their own life, and those rates have remained steady (https://www.thedailybeast.com/).

Substance Use

The LGBTQ community reports higher rates of drug, alcohol and tobacco use than that of straight people. Major factors that contribute to substance use by LGBTQ people include prejudice, discrimination, navigating the health care system which can oftentimes lack cultural competency and lack of peer support. An estimated 20-30% of LGBTQ people abuse substances, compared to approximately 9% of the general population. With respect to alcohol in particular, 25% of LGBT people abuse this substance, compared to 5-10% of the general population (https://www.nami.org/).

Homelessness

According to a recent study from University of Chicago, LGBTQ young people are 120% more likely to experience homelessness than non-LGBTQ youth. It is estimated that about 7% of youth in the United States are LGBTQ, while 40% of youth experiencing homeless-ness are LGBTQ (True Colors Fund). LGBTQ persons face social stigma, discrimination, and often rejection by their families, which adds to the strains/challenges that all homelessness persons are already struggling with. Frequently, homeless LGBTQ persons have great difficulty finding shelters that accept and respect them. LGBTQ individuals experiencing homelessness are often at a heightened risk of violence, abuse, and exploitation compared with their heterosexual peers. Transgender people are particularly at physical risk due to a lack of acceptance and stigma and are often turned away from shelters; in some cases signs have been posted barring their entrance (National Coalition for the Homeless – http://nationalhomeless.org/).