3 Big Ways to Address LGBTQ Mental Health #MMHAM
Written by: Zoë King
This July, we are focusing our content on ‘Minority Identities and Mental Health’, a blog series honoring #MMHAM that discusses the mental health risks, issues, and resources specifically affecting minority populations and identities.
In the previous post in this series, we talked about how being LGBTQ can increase your risk for mental health conditions. However, there are plenty of ways to remedy this issue, both big and small. Today we’ll address some large-scale ways that can benefit the entire LGBTQ population, changing mental health for the better.
1. Reduce Stigma
One way that the mental health of the LGBTQ population can be improved is by reducing the stigma surrounding being LGBTQ. While in more progressive communities it can be easy to forget that LGBTQ people often face poor treatment because of their identities, many LGBTQ people face prejudice not just from the outside world, but also from family and friends. The easiest way to remedy this is by spreading correct information about LGBTQ people. Whether this information is spread through health education in schools, community outreach, or even social media, teaching people that being LGBTQ is not something to hate or be afraid of is the most effective route of addressing the issues LGBTQ people face.
2. Change Policy
Another large-scale way to improve LGBTQ mental health is to continue passing government policy to protect LGBTQ people from discrimination. Since many of the major issues LGBTQ people face within their daily lives are related to employment and housing, ensuring that LGBTQ people are fully protected in these aspects of life would surely decrease the adverse mental health effects of struggling to ensure you can afford the basic needs of life, like housing. The Supreme Court’s recent ruling that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 protects gay and transgender workers is an incredible step in the right direction, but going forward we need to ensure that this is actually enforced across all 50 states.
Regarding housing on the other hand, the issue is not as straightforward. Unfortunately, the Fair Housing Act (part of the Civil Rights Act of 1968) does not protect people based on regardless of sexual orientation/gender identity. In order to amend this issue, the Fair and Equal Housing Act was introduced to the Senate in April 2019, but it has not had any action taken since then. Having this bill pass the senate would definitely help LGBTQ people, so spreading information and writing to your senator could have a serious impact, as this bill has gotten very little media coverage.
3. Decrease Domestic Violence Rates
The final big way to improve LGBTQ mental health discussed today, is to take action to decrease the rate of domestic violence within the LGBTQ community. Acting on the other two ways listed here will automatically help lower domestic violence rates, but there are also paths lower rates within the issue. One way, ironically enough, is to offer low-cost or free therapy for people who are more likely to become abusers. When provided therapy, abusers were found to be up to 20% less likely to fall into recidivism, so potentially providing therapy to individuals struggling with issues that may increase the chances of them choosing to become abusive may help decrease the amount of domestic abuse, and thus the rate of mental health issues caused by domestic abuse. This method of correcting the issue of LGBTQ domestic abuse could also lower the rate of non-LGBTQ domestic violence as well, assuming the therapy groups include both LGBTQ people and heterosexual people. Another way to potentially address the issue of LGBTQ domestic violence and thus mental health, is to ensure that domestic abusers are incriminated for their behavior. This is a particularly heinous issue in North Carolina, the only state where victims of domestic violence in same-sex relationships are not allowed domestic violence protective orders. This was recently challenged in M.E. vs. T.J., a case in which a woman was not allowed a domestic violence protective order against her abusive female partner because they were the same sex. However, the last update to be found on this case was in October of 2019, and as of then the ruling has not been decided. Unfortunately, it seems all we can do is hope the ruling meets the same standards as the rest of the nation.
While many strides have been taken to protect the mental health of the LGBTQ population on a nationwide scale, there is still much to be done. Alternatively, the next post in this series will offer ways to help the mental health of the LGBTQ people around you, in smaller scale approaches to address this broad-scale issue.