MENTAL HEALTH

AND LGBTQ PEOPLE

Mental health is “a state of well-being in which an individual realizes [their] own abilities, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively, and is able to make a contribution to [their] community.” (World Health Organization, 2014) In the same way, lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ) mental health is shaped by a sense of self-worth, the level of coping to stressors, and the inclusivity of a community and culture.


HISTORICAL LENS

Understanding the mental health of people who identify as LGBTQ requires an awareness of both the historical and ongoing stigma of LGBTQ identities. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is a classification system of mental health conditions and is published by the American Psychiatric Association. Homosexuality was delisted from the DSM as a mental disorder in 1986. The World Health Organization removed homosexuality from its list of mental disorders in 1990. Despite these changes, stigma and systemic discrimination still exists for same-sex attraction in many cultures, and trans people continue to be pathologized.


FACTS ON MENTAL HEALTH AND LGBTQ PEOPLE

LGBTQ people are at higher risk for developing some types of mental health problems when compared to their heterosexual and cisgender counterparts. Through the experience of stigma and discrimination throughout the lifespan, an accumulation of stress can contribute to increased risks for mental illness. In addition, LGBTQ people are more likely to experience childhood maltreatment, interpersonal violence, and personal loss in comparison to their heterosexual peers. Additional factors that may affect the mental health and well-being for LGBTQ people include the experience of internalized oppression, isolation and alienation, loss of family or social support. Many LGBTQ youth have a difficult time with coming out, and with reconciling how they present themselves when away from home and at university with their identity at home. Trans people may face barriers at home, at school, and at work in getting their gender identity recognized/validated and may need medical and psychosocial support with transitioning.

LGBTQ individuals who have multiple forms of marginalized or disadvantaged identities, including racialization, disability, health status (for example, living with HIV and AIDS), and low income (e.g. racialized LGBTQ person living in poverty) may experience greater negative impacts on their mental health. Individuals with the intersection of marginalization may also face more barriers to accessing mental health care that meets their needs.


WHAT CAN BE DONE?

Promoting acceptance of LGBTQ individuals and encouraging them to connect with LGBTQ culture as one segment of their identity is essential to reducing health disparities experienced. Providing a safer space for LBGTQ individuals, within family or friendship circles, the workplace, and neighbourhood is important. Enabling LGBTQ people to share their experiences and stories can help them find supports in people they trust.


RESOURCES

Local Montreal resources

Understanding the mental health of people who identify as LGBTQ requires an awareness of both the historical and ongoing stigma of LGBTQ identities. The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual

  • 2110 Centre for Gender Advocacy offers sliding-scale binders, a no-questions-asked needle exchange, free safer sex products, and free peer support and advocacy services
  • ASTT(e)Q offers support, information, resources, referrals, and workshops for trans people
  • Head and Hands provides medical, social, and legal services
  • L’Astérisk is a community centre where LGBTQ* youth under the age of 25 to access support and resources
  • Project 10 offers a listening line, peer counselling and accompaniment, drop-in, advocacy, workshops, and resource referral
  • Queer McGill provides a space for queer students and their allies to hang out from 9am to 5pm during the semester (SSMU 432) and hosts social and political events, discussion groups, and more
  • Union for Gender Empowerment has a pay-what-you-can coop with alternative menstrual, safer sex, and gender empowerment products, and is a safe space on campus to get support on gender and sexuality issues (SSMU 413)
  • SACOMSS provides support for survivors of sexual assault, including legal support and accompaniment; their staffers are well-trained on supporting queer and trans folks
  • Other LGBTQ Groups on and off campus
Phone or Online

Created in collaboration with Social Equity and Diversity Education (SEDE) Office


REFERENCES

Canadian Mental Health Association. (2015). Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Trans People and Mental Health. Retrieved from http://ontario.cmha.ca/mental-health/lesbian-gay-bisexual-trans-people-and-mental-health/

Rainbow Health Ontario. (2012). LGBTQ Mental Health. Retrieved from http://www.rainbowhealthontario.ca/wp-content/uploads/woocommerce_uploads/2011/06/RHO_FactSheet_LGBTQMENTALHEALTH_E.pdf

World Health Organization. (2014). Mental health: A state of well-being. Retrieved from http://www.who.int/features/factfiles/mental_health/en/