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  • Writer's pictureSkyline Team

LGBTQ+ Struggle with Mental Health is Largely Due to Minority Stress

Updated: Feb 22

*Hint: There are many articles and resources linked throughout the post. Check them out and share widely!

LGBTQ person with sign that reads "You belong, I belong, we belong." A crowd gathers to hear an LGBTQ advocate speak

Being a member of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer (LGBTQ+) community can be wonderful, connecting, and vibrant. It’s also an objectively stressful identity to hold.

Despite media depictions of our nation’s embrace, LGBTQ+ individuals remain under threat and insufficiently supported and protected. Big commercial companies wave their rainbow flags during pride month while also donating millions of dollars to support anti-LGBTQ legislation (see Business Insider article, 2021). The commercialization of pride has become so out of hand that companies that show no support for LGBTQ rights or even their interests show up every June to pay lip service, borrow our talking points, and profit from their false ally-ship (see Vice article 2021).

To be sure, pride is not the primary emotional state for many LGBTQ+ folks.

For years, psychological and sociological researchers have been studying and writing about the stress inherent in differing from the norm and withstanding the discrimination and anguish that ensue. According to the Minority Stress Model (Meyer, 1995, 2003), the dominant culture’s maltreatment and hostility toward sexual minorities actually lead to not only stress and mental health symptoms but physical concerns, health disparities, and worse outcomes. Some of the specific casual factors include openly expressed homophobia, rejection, harassment, and discrimination. Over recent years, surveys of youth have revealed that about 86% of LGBTQ students reported experiencing assault or harassment at school (2019 National School Climate Survey) and less than 1/3 indicated that they can call their home an LGBTQ-affirming space (2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health).

In response to maltreatment and abuse, some individuals try to adapt by concealing their identities, denying who they are, and removing themselves from situations before they might be rejected or ridiculed. Others internalize the homophobia and transphobia that surround them, believing that because they are different from the heteronormative mold, they are also less worthy of support, resources, and respect. It’s no surprise that the rates of anxiety, depression, suicidality, homelessness, alcohol, and substance use are significantly higher within the LGBTQ+ population (2020 National Survey of Drug Use and Health, NAMI- LGBTQI). And, as a whole, LGBTQ+ folks are more likely to be discriminated against and even turned away by healthcare providers (see 2021 University of Pittsburgh Medical Center's Health Beat article).

At Skyline Psychotherapy & Assessment Services, PLLC, we believe in shining a light on the stresses, systemic manipulations, and health disparities faced by our LGBTQ+ community. We also firmly believe in (and champion!) quality affirmative care (see our blog “Why You Need an LGBTQ Affirmative Therapist”). It’s important to find friends, family members, teachers, mentors, community leaders, doctors, and therapists that accept and support you. Although all of the major mental and physical healthcare organizations have now officially deemed it unethical for their providers to mistreat LGBTQ clients and patients (despite what some states insist is legal discrimination) we think that LGBTQ+ folks can do better than settling for providers that are forced to treat you as they would a cis, hetero patient. In particular, you deserve a therapist who can see you for your sexual minority identity rather than suppress, shy away from, or simply wash it away with a surface-level acknowledgement. An LGBTQ+ affirmative therapist can help to root out the internalized homophobia and self-blame that many of us experience. They can also guide LGBTQ+ folks through the “coming out” process, workplace discrimination, problematic family interactions, and dynamics uniquely felt within same-sex, poly, asexual, and consensual nonmonogamous relationships (to name a few).

If you or someone you care about is experiencing minority stress and is in need of care and support, here are some resources that we feel good about promoting:

For LGBTQ “young people,” the Trevor Project provides excellent support. Chat, call, or text with a trained volunteer 24/7.

For those experiencing thoughts of suicide: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

For those looking to improve in their role of support family member, PFLAG was the first and is still the largest organization that educates and advocates for LGBTQ+ folks and their families. They even have local community chapters and meetings.

In the Philadelphia area, the Mazzoni Center provides affirmative primary care and other specialty healthcare, gender affirming care and letter writing, testing and prevention, behavioral health, and peer support groups. The William Way LGBT Community Center offers peer support, wellness, recovery meetings, community connection, arts and culture, advocacy, employment help, and a safe space for expression.

And, of course, the psychologists at Skyline Psych are not only affirmative therapists but fierce champions of LGBTQ+ folks everywhere. Our co-owners are members of the community, advocates, and even small-business sponsors of local Pride events!

For more, check out our page specific to LGBTQ+ Affirmative Care at Skyline Psych.

Skyline Psychotherapy co-owners Drs. Lindsay Anmuth and Noel Shadowen hold a pride progress flag on a Philadelphia street

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