May is officially recognized as Mental Health Awareness Month, and now more than ever, it’s crucial that we shine a light on mental health in the LGBTQ community. We must ensure that all people — regardless of where they are in life — receive the support needed to truly thrive.
Studies show that LGBTQ people are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, lowered self-esteem and even suicidal thoughts compared to their straight and cisgender peers. These statistics are even higher for members of the bisexual + and transgender community. We’ve also seen how LGBTQ youth are especially at risk of struggling with mental health given stressors such as unsupportive families, hostile school conditions, bullying from peers and a lack of adequate resources. To be clear — mental health disparities for LGBTQ have nothing to do with being LGBTQ and everything to do with how society treats the community.
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has only exacerbated mental health issues for many in our community, especially for those disproportionately impacted by the pandemic including communities of color and people living with HIV/AIDS. Stay-at-home orders have forced college students to return to homes that can be unwelcoming of their authentic selves. Gender-affirming surgeries have been put on hold for many patients. Economic turmoil is disproportionately affecting the very livelihood of LGBTQ people nationwide. Even as we work to survive — let alone exist — during this crisis, our own government is attempting to roll back health care protections for the most vulnerable in our community.
While the current environment we live in presents challenges, there is still hope for any and all LGBTQ people facing their own unique challenges in regards to mental health. Our community has always been one of resilience, perseverance and strength in the face of adversity. In a time when many may feel that their mental health must take a backseat, we instead must lift up those who may be struggling and let them know there are people there to support them — especially in the toughest of times. Remaining at home does not mean you have to remain isolated, with online communities and resources available at nearly every hour of the day. No one person’s challenges are the same as another’s, but collectively we can end the taboo around mental health and create real change for the LGBTQ community.
If you or someone you know are in need of help or assistance, contact The Trevor Project, which runs phone and text chat support lines specifically for LGBTQ youth, or other similar programs committed to providing LGBTQ people with mental health support.