4 Small 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 our last blog post, we talked about large-scale ways we can change as a nation to improve LGBTQ mental health. However, there are plenty of smaller things that you as an individual can do to help the mental health of the LGBTQ people you care about, or the LGBTQ people in your local community. While these small things are more band-aid fixes on much broader scale issues, they can still make a serious improvement in the mental health of LGBTQ people, and are much more easy to accomplish in your daily life.
1. Stand up for LGBTQ people
The first and arguably most important point is to stand up for LGBTQ people when you hear others speaking against them. When you stand up against the stigma that LGBTQ people face, not only are you helping normalize being LGBTQ, but you could also be reassuring any LGBTQ people who may be present or nearby that there are people who are supportive of who they are as people. This is especially important in environments where support for LGBTQ people is less common, such as at family or religious functions. However, if you feel that your own safety may be threatened for speaking up, understand that you have no obligation to endanger your safety. Additionally, it’s important to note that when standing up for LGBTQ people, that you should absolutely not publicly out them. This can do significantly more harm than any good you may have intended.
The next way you can help improve the mental health of the LGBTQ people in your life is to check in on them regularly. All you have to do is occasionally ask how they’re holding up, and listen if they have anything they have to get off their chest. Just knowing that someone cares enough about their mental health to regularly check in can really improve their state of mind. We have more information on looking out for friends at risk of mental health issues here: How to Help a Friend. This point can apply to anyone, even if they’re not LGBTQ, but it is especially important due to the higher rate of mental illness and suicide within the LGBTQ community.
3. Look out for warning signs
Another important thing you can do is to look out for signs of domestic violence. Due to the prevalence of gender stereotypes, many people including those who are LGBTQ, may assume that LGBTQ relationships are free from the risk of domestic violence. However as discussed in the first post in this series, that is not at all the case. Make sure you look out for signs of domestic abuse in the relationships of those you care about, such as frequently cancelling plans, constant monitoring by their partner, or the more obvious physical signs like bruises or injuries. Here’s a more comprehensive list: Warning Signs of Domestic Abuse. It may feel less progressive to be considering such things of a LGBTQ relationship, but understand that it is important to acknowledge the reality that LGBTQ relationships are no more pure than heterosexual ones, and treating them as purer can actually cause more harm than good.
4. Don’t treat LGBTQ people differently
This leads into the next way you can help the mental health of the LGBTQ people around you: don’t treat them as noticeably different than you would treat a non-LGBTQ person. While this more obviously means that you shouldn’t treat them worse than heterosexual/cisgender people, it also means that you shouldn’t act as if they are inherently better than heterosexual/cisgender people. Many straight/cisgender allies feel like they have to speak of LGBTQ people like they are innocent and pure. However, this infantilization can take a toll on a person’s mental state just like the vehemently anti-gay crowd. Constantly being patronized by those who are claiming to support you can be incredibly frustrating, and outright isolating to LGBTQ people, and those feelings can aggravate stress and anxiety. Don’t misinterpret this, this is not permission to speak poorly of LGBTQ people, or to not acknowledge the higher rates of mental illness, or homelessness, or discrimination. We just want to be treated as people, not to be pandered to or treated as something disgusting.
We’ll end the list with two important causes that you can donate to if you’re interested.
If you’re interested in lowering the rate of homelessness among LGBTQ people, here are some Wake County homeless shelters that are LGBTQ friendly to donate to:
If you’re interested in lowering the rate of suicide in the LGBTQ community, here are some LGBTQ targeted/friendly suicide hotlines: