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What is LGBTQ+?

Some of us may identify ourselves as LGBTQ+. This is a wide-reaching group which includes people who identify as gay men, lesbian, bisexual, transexual (trans), queer, asexual, pansexual, or questioning – or people who may define their gender and sexuality in other ways.

If you’re LGBTQ+ and have experienced mental health problems, you’re not alone. Although anybody can experience difficulties with their mental health, LGBTQ+ people are significantly more likely to experience a mental health problem than straight and non-trans people. Research shows that more than 40% of LGBTQ+ people will experience a significant mental health problem, compared to around 25% of the whole population – a huge amount more. These mental health problems include:

  • depression;
  • anxiety;
  • suicidal thoughts;
  • suicide: LGBTQ+ people are more than twice as likely to have attempted suicide than the population as a whole.

Why do LGBTQ+ people have higher rates of mental health problems?

The reasons for this are very complex and not yet completely understood. One of the most likely reasons is that LGBTQ+ people experience stigma, discrimination, rejection and other negative emotions. This can be especially true when someone first comes out.

A recent government survey of LGBTQ+ people, which had over 108,000 responders, shows they’re experiencing prejudice on a daily basis:

  • more than two thirds of LGBTQ+ people avoid holding hands with a same-sex partner in public for fear of a negative reaction from others;
  • at least 2 in 5 had experienced an incident because they were LGBTQ+, such as verbal harassment or physical violence;
  • more than 9 in 10 of the most serious incidents went unreported, often because they thought ‘it happens all the time’;
  • 2% had undergone ‘conversion’ therapy in an attempt to ‘cure’ them of being LGBTQ+, and a further 5% had been offered it;
  • 24% had accessed mental health services in the year preceding the survey;
  • around a fifth of these said their GP was not supportive.

This report found that LGBTQ+ people are generally more dissatisfied with health services in comparison to those who aren’t LGBTQ+. The reasons for this include:

  • lack of knowledge among healthcare staff about the health needs of LGBTQ+ people;
  • specific concerns with mental and sexual health services;
  • among transgender people, concerns with the gender identity services provided by the NHS.

None of this is acceptable. We live in a world that, for the most part, doesn’t reflect or consider the experience of LGBTQ+ people’s day-to-day lives – a world that’s full of subtle (and not so subtle) messages about lack of equal worth and the unacceptability of difference. This can cause LGBTQ+ people to question their value and worth, especially during adolescence, leading to feelings of low self-worth/self-esteem which can last into adulthood. Low self-worth, rejection, negative self-questioning, fear of judgement and abuse can make some situations in our lives more difficult to cope with.

Hate crimes against LGBTQ+ are not uncommon, ranging from verbal abuse in the street to violent attacks and even murder.

You may also experience negative reactions, rejection or hostility from family members, friends, strangers, employers or members of a religious community. This can have a huge impact on your self-esteem and make you feel uncomfortable or unable to be open about your sexual or gender identity at home, school or work, making you feel like you have to be very careful about everything you say in relation to your personal life; this can cause a great deal of ongoing stress.

Useful Contacts

Albert Kennedy Trust

Supports young LGBT+ people (16-25) who are made homeless or living in a hostile environment, by providing appropriate homes through supported lodgings, fostering and other specialist housing schemes.

Broken Rainbow

Support for LGBT+ people experiencing domestic violence.

Dorset Mind

West Dorset group (Weymouth): details available here
East Dorset group (Bournemouth): details available here
We deliver specific support for LGBT+ people, for example, through our weekly MindOut Support Groups – a safe, confidential and accepting space for LGBT+ people experiencing mental health issues, offering recovery-based peer and staff support.

Gender Identity Research and Education Society (GIRES)

Information for trans people, their families and the professionals who care for them. Their purpose is to improve the lives of trans and gender non-conforming people of all ages, including those who are non-binary and non-gender.

Imaan

Supports LGBT+ Muslim people, their families and friends to address issues of sexual orientation within Islam.

LGBT Foundation

This Manchester-based charity offers a wide range of LGBT+ services plus a national helpline.

MindOut

MindOut is a mental health service run by and for lesbians, gay men, bisexual and trans people, providing a number of resources and national initiatives.

Over the Rainbow

Bournemouth-based service offering advice, support, and information for (in their own words) the fabulous lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community. Areas covered include general health, sexual health, psychological support and health promotion.

Regard

Provides information, advice and support to LGBT+ people with disabilities.

SpaceYouth Project

A group for young lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans and questioning people under 25 based in Dorset, they meet at lots of different places and give LGBT+ young people an opportunity to meet others, make new friends, chat, plan events and have fun.

Stonewall

Campaigns to achieve equality and justice for LGBT+ people.

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