Mental health in the LGBTQ+ community: The facts + 4 tips for finding inclusive mental health care

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Growing up, many people have moments where they wonder if they’re different. That includes many in the LGBTQ+ community. In addition to wondering if they’re different, LGBTQ+ youth also wonder if they’re safe.

“Being LGBTQ+ isn’t the societal norm and sharing your identity can be scary when you know some people will react negatively,” says Julie Butterfield, a behavioral health clinical operations manager for BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee. “At home, it’s not unusual for kids to worry how their loved ones will react, too. One study reported at least 43% of LGBTQ+ youth were forced out of their homes. That takes a toll on your mental health.”

WellTuned spoke with Julie to get the facts around mental health in the LGBTQ+ community and tips for finding inclusive mental health care.

Mental health in the LGBTQ+ community: the facts

Nearly 40% of the LGBTQ+ community — 5.8 million people — report experiencing a mental health concern of some kind.

There are many contributing factors, the most common of which are:

  • Facing health disparities linked to stigma and discrimination
  • Being more likely to be harassed, experience violence or homelessness because of their identity

Within the LGBTQ+ population:

  • Bisexual and transgender communities have the highest rates of mental health concerns
  • Teens are 6X more likely to experience depression than non-LGBTQ+ teens
  • 45% of youth have seriously considered suicide in the past
  • Many people are part of a second marginalized community, such as people of color, those who have a disability, practice a religion different from their neighbors and/or have a low socioeconomic status.

As you can see from all of those variables, LGBTQ+ people tend to have complex experiences that can’t be easily addressed in just one area of their life. That makes getting mental health care more challenging and more important.

“One positive thing is that studies show most LGBTQ+ individuals are incredibly resilient and capable of thriving if they have supportive families, communities or peers,” Julie says.

4 tips for finding mental health care in the LGBTQ+ community

1. Shop around

Butterfield: I’m a therapist who goes to therapy, so I know the importance of finding someone you trust. It’s hard enough to open up about sensitive matters when you do feel comfortable with someone; don’t waste any time on a provider you don’t connect with in a way that works for you.

Trust your intuition, and shop around. It is your right to discontinue a mental health session at any point if you don’t feel comfortable. Whatever you do, don’t keep going back to a provider who’s not the right fit for you.

For WellTuned’s complete guide to finding inclusive health care, click here.

2. Start local

Butterfield: The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) is a wonderful resource for all LGBTQ+ issues, including mental health resources. But when it comes to finding a therapist, I suggest looking for resources from your local LGBTQ+ organization. For example, here in the MidSouth, OUTMemphis is my starting point for all information and resources.

For the Tennessee Justice Center’s list of LGBTQ+ health resources in different regions of the state, click here.

3. Explore virtual options

Butterfield: See if your local community center has any LGBTQ+ programs or resources. If they don’t, consider telehealth. Virtual therapy can be very effective, and many insurance plans are more likely to cover it now, since COVID.

4. Seek support on social media

Butterfield: In general, I don’t endorse a lot of social media, but it does have a time and place. If you’re an isolated teen in the middle of nowhere and you can use social media to find a supportive online community, do it — but do it carefully. Again, I’d recommend starting with your local community center, or the closest community organization to you, so they can help you find a truly safe space.

Learn more about online communities for LGBTQ+ youth, including how to help LGBTQ+ children find safe online communities and resources.

Ashley Brantley

Ashley Brantley has been writing about food, culture and health for more than a decade, and has lived in three of Tennessee’s four major cities (Memphis, Nashville and Knoxville).

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