By: Leah Hovey
The process of coming out is not a straightforward path. It is a journey of acceptance. This journey can many times bring out an abundance of feelings that can severely impact an individual. Mental illness is a commonality within the LGBTQ community, and more often than not it can be hard to seek help. Lesbian and gay individuals are reported to experience more attempted suicides than heterosexuals (Eisenberg & Resnick, 2006), transgendered people are 9-10 times more likely to attempt suicide than even their gay/lesbian peers (Haas et al., 2014), and bisexual individuals are noted to have a higher rate of depression, anxiety, and self-harming behaviours than their heterosexual peers (Blosnich & Bossarte, 2012; Silva et al., 2015).
Seeking professional help is one very big and important step to recovery. Research indicates that gay and lesbian individuals' mental health does differ from not just heterosexual individuals but from each other (Cochran et al., 2003). There is a difference with life experiences when it comes to the LGBTQ community, and these differences should be taken into consideration. By not taking into consideration these factors, there may be obstacles within the therapy or a feeling of not being understood by those in the community (Ussher, 2009). Even our most basic Integrated Care Systems (ICS) face some limitations. For example, LGBTQ individuals may need more intensive sessions or procedures than those that are provided under our general health care plan, or the practitioners may not have the correct sensitivity training needed to deal with various individuals (Thomas & Maragakis, 2018).
So, what are some options for people within the LGBTQ community who are suffering from mental illness? Well, sensitivity training for all general health care providers in Canada is needed. The more accepting and understanding people are, the less hesitant individuals will be to come forward with their mental health concerns. There are listings online of LGBTQ therapists within every region. These are professional therapists who are part of the community and identify with the struggles those in the LGBTQ community go through. By reading more into each therapist and seeing patient testimonials, it can be easy to spot a good therapist in the area! There are even some facilities who cater directly to the LGBTQ community and specifically offer therapy with gay, lesbian, or transgendered therapists all within the GTA.
If therapy is not an option, there are also various means of support one can get from the community. Phone hotlines such as the Kids Help Phone, The Trevor Project (for transgendered individuals), and Lesbian Gay Bi Trans Youth Line offer around the clock support for those going through an immediate concern. As well, there are peer support groups anyone within the community can attend for free and whenever they want. The 519 is a free organization that provides help in the community by offering various peer support groups where you can go to express your feelings, build relationships, and learn from others. They have various groups such as the Coming Out, Being Out group, the Gay Fathers of Toronto group, the Love Addicts Anonymous (LAA) group, the Toronto Bisexual Network, and many others.
With peer support groups and various aspects of therapy, these services can help you deal with mental health concerns directly relating within your area and provide help for those who need it.
Blosnich, J., & Bossarte, R. (2012). Drivers of disparity: Differences in socially base risk factors of self-injurious and suicidal behaviors among sexual minority college students. Journal of American College Health, 60, 141-149. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/07448481.2011.623332
Cochran, S.D., Sullivan, J.G. and Mays, V.M. (2003) ‘Prevalence of Mental Disorders, Psychological Distress, and Mental Services Use among Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Adults in the United States’, Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology 71: 53–61.
Eisenberg, M. E., & Resnick, M. D. (2006). Suicidality among gay, lesbian and bisexual youth: The role of protective factors. Journal of Adolescent Health, 39, 662-668.
Haas, A. P., Rodgers, P. L., & Herman, J. L. (2014). Suicide attempts among transgender and gender non-conforming adults: Findings of the National Transgender Survey. Retrieved from http://williamsinstitute.law.ucla.edu/wp-content/uploads/AFSP-WilliamsSuicideReport-Final.pdf
Silva, C., Chu, C., Monahan, K. R., & Joiner, T. E. (2015). Suicide risk among sexual minority college students: A mediated moderation model of sex and perceived burdensomeness. Psychology of Sexual Orientation and Gender Diversity, 2(1), 22- 33. http://dx.doi.org/10.1037/sgd0000086
Thomas, A., & Maragakis, A. (2018). The Role of Integrated Healthcare Services in Meeting Somatic and Mental Health Needs of LGBTQ Individuals. The Practitioner Scholar: Journal of Counseling and Professional Psychology, 7(1).
Ussher, J. M. (2009). Heterocentric practices in health research and health care: Implications for mental health and subjectivity of LGBTQ individuals. Feminism & Psychology, 19(4), 561-567.