Historically LGBTQI+ people have not been well served in terms of their mental health for a number of reasons, including societal stigma, discrimination, and lack of access to appropriate care. Societal stigma and discrimination against LGBTQI+ individuals have created a hostile environment for them to live in. This environment can result in chronic stress, anxiety, and depression, which can negatively impact their mental health.
Studies have shown that LGBTQI+ individuals are at a higher risk of developing mental health issues due to their experiences of prejudice, discrimination, and rejection from society.
The lack of access to appropriate care has been a significant barrier for LGBTQI+ individuals seeking mental health support. Furthermore, homosexuality and gender non-conformity have been often pathologised as a mental illness, resulting in stigma and discrimination within the mental health system, which has led to the misdiagnosis and inadequate treatment of LGBTQI+ individuals by medical professionals.
Mental health difficulties such as self-harm and suicidal distress are more prevalent among LGBTQI+ people; for example, in the UK government’s equality survey, 3% of gay and bisexual men (compared with 0.4% of men in the general UK population) attempted to end their life by suicide in 2013; over 80% of trans-identifying young people have self-harmed at some point in their lives (compared to around 10% in the general population) and 24% of trans-people had accessed mental health services in the preceding year.
These marked differences in levels of mental distress are believed to be – in part – because of stressors including being victimised, socially isolated and further, problems with accessing LGBTQI-affirming care. In the NHS, the specific needs of the LGBTQI+ community can be overlooked because of how services are organised and consequently, many people approach local charities, community and peer support groups.