Why is the LGBTQ+ community disproportionately affected by mental health problems and suicide? | News and Events

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Why is the LGBTQ+ community disproportionately affected by mental health problems and suicide?

Written by Hannah Clayton, Honorary Research Assistant, CARMS Project

The CARMS (Cognitive AppRoaches to coMbatting Suicidality) Project focuses on testing the efficacy of a new psychological therapy to help reduce suicidal experiences in people with psychosis. In one of our latest blog posts, we talked about how transgender and non-binary people may be more at risk of suicide. In this article, we briefly mentioned how suicide may affect the wider LGBTQ+ community. We feel like it is important to expand on this topic in our blog to continue this discussion.

Sexual Orientation Definitions:

Sexual orientation refers to who people are sexually attracted to or who they are in relationships with[i]. This is often expressed through behaviours with others, such as kissing, or non-sexual physical affection, such as mutual support. It is therefore not seen as a fixed characteristic, but rather one that can change over time[ii]. Here is a list of some labels people may use to describe their sexual orientation:

  • Asexual: experiencing little or no sexual attraction to others[iii].
  • Bisexual: being attracted to people of your own gender and to people with gender(s) different than your own[iv].
  • image1 Demisexual: experiencing little or no sexual attraction, often until a strong romantic connection is formed with someone[v].
  • Gay/Lesbian: primarily experiencing attraction to members of the same gender (e.g. can be used to describe a man who is attracted to other men). The word gay can also be seen as an umbrella term to refer to anyone within the LGBTQ+ community[vi].
  • Straight/Heterosexual: primarily experiencing attraction to people of the opposite gender[vii].
  • Pansexual: experiencing attraction for all members of all gender identities/expressions[viii].
  • Questioning: being unsure about, or exploring, sexual orientation or gender[ix].
  • Skoliosexual: experiencing attraction to people who identify as non-binary, transgender or anyone who does not identify as cisgender[x].

[Photo by Patrick Fore on Unsplash]

For more information, a comprehensive list of LGBTQ+ vocabulary definitions can be explored to see a longer list of labels used to define sexual orientation. It is important to remember that all of these labels are valid and should be respected.

Mental Health Problems in the LGBTQ+ Community:

It has been consistently reported that in the UK, the LGBTQ+ community may experience increased levels of common mental health problems, including depression and anxiety[xi]. According to a research project conducted by Youth Chances, 52% of LGBTQ people reported self-harming, compared to 35% of heterosexual non-trans young people[xii]. Furthermore, 44% of the LGBTQ people reported suicidal thoughts, compared to 26% of heterosexual non-trans respondents[xiii].  In a study by Stonewall, it was also found that 13% of LGBT people aged 18-24 attempted to take their own life in the past year[xiv].

The LGBTQ+ community are also affected by other mental health problems such as substance abuse. In the Stonewall report, it was found that 16% of LGBT people said they had drunk alcohol almost every day over the last year, compared to 10% of the general population[xv]. This also increases with age, as 33% of LGBT people over 65 years of age reported drinking almost every day[xvi].

Recently, the BBC have reported a significant rise in the number of LGBT people seeking suicide-prevention support during the coronavirus lockdown restrictions[xvii]. One support group, LGBT Hero, saw a 44% increase in people accessing their website, compared to the three months before lockdown[xviii]. In a recent survey, LGBT Hero also reported 79% of LGBTQ+ people said their mental health had been negatively affected by lockdown[xix]. Furthermore, before the coronavirus lockdown 21% of LGBTQ+ reported experiences of loneliness, yet this more than doubled during lockdown up to 56%[xx].

Unique Risk Factors affecting the LGBTQ+ Community:

There are some factors that may uniquely affect LGBTQ+ people and contribute to the disproportionate amount of mental health problems in this community. These factors include:

  • Hate Crime: People who identify as LGBTQ+ are at a greater risk of experiencing hate crime compared to heterosexual people[xxi]. Certain groups within this community are particularly at risk of this too, including LGBTQ+ people from BAME backgrounds[xxii]. According to a report by Stonewall, experiencing hate crime significantly increased the risk of mental health problems. It was found that 69% of LGBT people who had been a victim of a hate crime experienced depression and 76% reported episodes of anxiety[xxiii].
  • Bullying: A BBC report showed that people being bullied in schools for being lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender is the most common form of bullying[xxiv]. In a school report by Stonewall, it was also found that nearly half of all LGBT pupils experienced bullying for their sexual orientation[xxv].
  • Discrimination in Healthcare: In 2018, parliament’s Women and Equalities Committee accused the NHS of treating the needs of LGBTQ+ people as “less important” than the rest of the population[xxvi]. According to a national health report by Stonewall, one in seven LGBTQ+ people avoided seeking healthcare for fear of discrimination from staff, while one in four had witnessed negative remarks about LGBTQ+ people from healthcare staff while accessing services[xxvii].

How you can help:

[Photo by Eduardo Pastor on Unsplash]

  • image 2 Always take LGBTQ+ discrimination seriously. For example, by reporting instances of hate-crime or bullying, or by establishing strong anti-discrimination policies in workplace settings.
  • Support LGBTQ+ charities, such as through donations, fundraising, or volunteering. Or shop at businesses that support LGBTQ+ equality
  • Listen to and respect the language people use to describe their identity, gender, sexual orientation and relationships.
  • Support public LGBTQ+ events, such as Pride month and National Coming Out Day.
  • Avoid making assumptions about people’s sexual orientation or gender identity. Instead, consider using gender neutral terms, for example ‘partner’.
  • Avoid derogatory or outdated language. For example, the word ‘homosexual’ or ‘homo’ is typically seen as an offensive word when used by those outside the LGBTQ+ community. This is because of its association with outdated clinical terminology which treated gay people as mentally ill[xxviii]. You can find more information on what terms to avoid on the GLAAD website.
  • Speak about LGBTQ+ issues with friends, family, or colleagues to help create more open, comfortable and welcoming environments.

If you identify as LGBTQ+ and are facing any of the issues discussed in this article, remember there are places to seek support. Here are some resources:

  • Albert Kennedy Trust is a charity that supports young LGBT people between 16 and 25 years old who are experiencing homelessness or living in a hostile environment. More information can be found on their website: https://www.akt.org.uk/how-we-help
  • Stonewall is a charity offering help and advice to LGBT communities. Their information-service lines are open from 9:30 – 4:30, Monday to Friday: 0800 0502020. More information can be found on their website: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/help-and-advice
  • The Proud Trust is an organisation that helps empower young people in the LGBTQ+ community. More information can be found on their website: https://www.theproudtrust.org
  • IMAAN is a charity that supports Muslims who identify as LGBTQ+. You can contact them on imaanlgbtq@gmail.com and find more information on their website: https://imaanlondon.wordpress.com/about/
  • Rainbow Noir is a peer support, community action group, which provides peer support and a voice to people of colour, who identify as LGBTQ+, in Manchester and in the North West. You can contact them on rainbownoirmcr@gmail.com and find more information on their website: http://www.rainbownoirmcr.com/
  • Galop is a specialist LGBTQ+ anti-violence charity which provides support to LGBT+ victims/survivors of hate crime, domestic abuse and sexual violence. Their phone-line is open from 10am – 5pm, Monday to Friday and 10am – 8pm, Wednesday to Thursday: 0800 999 5428. You can also contact them on advice@galop.org.uk and find more information on their website: http://www.galop.org.uk/

 

If you would like more information about the CARMS Project please contact Kamelia Harris by telephone: 0161 2710729.

If you would like to find out more about Research at GMMH, visit: https://www.gmmh.nhs.uk/research

 

* This article contains references to suicide that some people may find distressing so if at any point you require urgent support with your mental health please contact your GP, care coordinator or crisis team. Other help can be found here:​​

A bit about Hannah Clayton:

“I have been volunteering as an Honorary Research Assistant at the CARMS Project since June 2019. I have recently completed my BSc in Psychology at The University of Manchester. I completed an independent research project during my time here, on the factors influencing students’ help-seeking attitudes for mental health problems. My motivation behind this project came from my interest in how we can best support vulnerable groups of people to get them the help they need. I have also used this motivation in my work outside my studies. For example, I am a volunteer with Samaritans, who I have been with for almost two years now. I am a strong believer in their values and recognise the need to support people dealing with distressing situations, including suicidal experiences. I also hold a position with the charity ‘Reach-Out’ where I lead weekly after-school classes with young people, alongside their volunteer mentors, in disadvantaged areas around Manchester to help raise aspirations and growth in both attainment and character. My plans for the future are to carry on supporting others, especially young people, who may experience mental health problems and suicidal experiences. I am therefore very excited to be part of this blog series for the CARMS Project.”

Hannah has since started working as a Learning Mentor at a school in Greater Manchester.

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[i] American Psychological Association (2020). Sexual orientation and homosexuality. [Online article]. Retrieved from: https://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/orientation

[ii] American Psychological Association (2020). Sexual orientation and homosexuality. [Online article]. Retrieved from: https://www.apa.org/topics/lgbt/orientation

[iii] It’s Pronounced Metrosexual (2020). Comprehensive* list of LGBTQ+ vocabulary definitions. [Online article]. Retrieved from: https://www.itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2013/01/a-comprehensive-list-of-lgbtq-term-definitions/#menu

[iv] Healthline (2020). What does it mean to be bi or bisexual? [Online article]. Retrieved from: https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-bisexual#trans-and-nonbinary-attraction

[v] Medical News Today (2020). Demisexuality: What to know. [Online article]. Retrieved from: https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327506

[vi] It’s Pronounced Metrosexual (2020). Comprehensive* list of LGBTQ+ vocabulary definitions. [Online article]. Retrieved from: https://www.itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2013/01/a-comprehensive-list-of-lgbtq-term-definitions/#menu

[vii] It’s Pronounced Metrosexual (2020). Comprehensive* list of LGBTQ+ vocabulary definitions. [Online article]. Retrieved from: https://www.itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2013/01/a-comprehensive-list-of-lgbtq-term-definitions/#menu

[viii] Barr, S. (2020, June 4). Pansexuality: what does it mean and how is it different from being bisexual? [Online article]. Retrieved from: https://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/love-sex/pansexual-definition-meaning-what-is-explained-bisexual-layla-moran-a9268546.html

[ix] t’s Pronounced Metrosexual (2020). Comprehensive* list of LGBTQ+ vocabulary definitions. [Online article]. Retrieved from: https://www.itspronouncedmetrosexual.com/2013/01/a-comprehensive-list-of-lgbtq-term-definitions/#menu

[x] Millier, A. M. (2019, February 18). What does skoliosexual mean? [Online article]. Retrieved from: https://www.womenshealthmag.com/sex-and-love/a26327170/skoliosexual-definition-meaning/

[xi]  Henderson, G., & Varney, J. (2017). Mental health challenges within the LGBT community. Retrieved from: https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2017/07/06/mental-health-challenges-within-the-lgbt-community/

[xii] Youth Chances (2016). Integrated report. [Online report]. Retrieved from: https://metrocharity.org.uk/sites/default/files/2017-04/National%20Youth%20Chances%20Intergrated%20Report%202016.pdf

[xiii] Youth Chances (2016). Integrated report. [Online report]. Retrieved from: https://metrocharity.org.uk/sites/default/files/2017-04/National%20Youth%20Chances%20Intergrated%20Report%202016.pdf

[xiv] Stonewall (2018). LGBT in Britain: Health. [Online report]. Retrieved from: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/system/files/lgbt_in_britain_health.pdf

[xv] Stonewall (2018). LGBT in Britain: Health. [Online report]. Retrieved from: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/system/files/lgbt_in_britain_health.pdf

[xvi] Stonewall (2018). LGBT in Britain: Health. [Online report]. Retrieved from: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/system/files/lgbt_in_britain_health.pdf

[xvii] Hunte, B. (2020). Lockdown: Suicide fears soar in LGBT community. Retrieved from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-53223765

[xviii] Hunte, B. (2020). Lockdown: Suicide fears soar in LGBT community. Retrieved from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-53223765

[xix] LGBT Hero. (2020). Four in five LGBTQ+ people say mental health has taken a hit during lockdown. [Online article]. Retrieved from: https://www.lgbthero.org.uk/post/four-in-five-lgbtq-people-say-mental-health-has-taken-a-hit-during-lockdown

[xx] LGBT Hero. (2020). Four in five LGBTQ+ people say mental health has taken a hit during lockdown. [Online article]. Retrieved from: https://www.lgbthero.org.uk/post/four-in-five-lgbtq-people-say-mental-health-has-taken-a-hit-during-lockdown

[xxi] Mental Health Foundation. (2020). Mental health statistics: LGBT people. [Online report]. Retrieved from: https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/statistics/mental-health-statistics-lgbt-people

[xxii] Hudson-Sharp, N. & Metcalf, H. (2016). Inequality among lesbian, gay bisexual and transgender groups in the UK: A review of evidence. Retrieved from: https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/539682/160719_REPORT_LGBT_evidence_review_NIESR_FINALPDF.pdf

[xxiii] Stonewall (2018). LGBT in Britain: Health. [Online report]. Retrieved from: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/system/files/lgbt_in_britain_health.pdf

[xxiv] BBC (2019, July). LGBT bullying in schools is more common than other kinds, says poll. [Online Article]. Retrieved from: https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/48866236

[xxv] Stonewall (2017). School report. [Online report]. Retrieved from: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/system/files/the_school_report_2017.pdf

[xxvi] Matthews-Kings, A. (2018). LGBT+ people’s health ‘seen as less important to NHS’, equalities committee warns. [Online article]. Retrieved from: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/health/lgbt-people-nhs-health-equalities-committee-parliament-gay-lesbian-trans-bisexual-a8648826.html

[xxvii] Stonewall (2018). LGBT in Britain: Health. [Online report]. Retrieved from: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/system/files/lgbt_in_britain_health.pdf

[xxviii] Peters, J. W. (2014). The decline and fall of the ‘H’ word. New York Times. Retrieved from: https://www.nytimes.com/2014/03/23/fashion/gays-lesbians-the-term-homosexual.html

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