Mental Health Concerns in Sexual Minorities
There has been a global increase in the acceptance of sexuality and sexual orientation-related concerns. However, despite the so-called supportive environment all over the world, it has been found that individuals belonging to the LGBTQIA community are more vulnerable to mental health concerns, and research has consistently shown an increase in such concerns within the community. This number is drastically higher in the Indian context. It is important to note here that it is the stigma surrounding sexuality and gender, and not sexuality and gender in itself, that contributes to these mental health concerns.
Studies have shown that 50% of the transgender population in India attempt suicide before the age of 20. In another study, it was reported that around 54% consume alcohol as a habit and 26% were severely depressed. One study showed that overall 48% of hijra participants had a psychiatric disorder, such as substance abuse or dependence and depression. However, none sought psychiatric help.
Since the environment contributes to mental health concerns, looking at the circumstances that members of the LGBTQIA community are in, can help us understand the increase in diagnoses of psychological conditions within the community.
Living in a hostile and stressful environment, irrespective of one's sexual orientation, increases the likelihood of developing mental health concerns. Individuals identifying as LGBTQIA often live in such an environment, where their fundamental rights are violated and their privacy infringed upon. They experience microaggression and face stigma regularly.
A hostile family environment adds to the existing stress faced by members of the community. Some have been forced to undergo conversion therapy at the insistence of their family members. This is not only perceived as not being accepted for who they are, but also contributes to feelings of isolation and decreases their self-acceptance. These factors act as a catalyst for increasing an individual's vulnerability to mental health concerns.
In addition to these external factors, there may not be full self-acceptance, or even acceptance within the community. Homophobia, biphobia and transphobia can become internalised, since there are rigid social and cultural norms around gender and sexuality, and an immense pressure to conform to them. This can make the process of coming out to oneself as a member of the LGBTQIA community difficult. Coming out to others is also difficult since it is likely to be met with social exclusion, victimization and bullying.
Due to the lack of social support, people belonging to the sexual minority might feel isolated. Talking to a friend or family member, or even a professional, who accepts them without any judgement can significantly decrease the likelihood of developing mental health concerns like depression, anxiety, stress, substance abuse and having increased suicidal thoughts.
For these reasons, it is important to understand the stressors faced within and outside the community. Therapists following affirmative therapy can address the concerns faced by them without judgement and help reduce the level of distress faced by the members of the community.
If you have been experiencing similar concerns owing to your sexuality or sexual orientation, feel free to reach out to us. An InnerHour therapist will be able to provide a safe space to help you.
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