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Andrey Kormilitzin outlines a new participatory study aimed at improving AI to take account of LGBTQI+ people so that their needs are better met by mental health services.

PC monitor with big data code displayed on the screen.

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.

Read the full story on the Department of Psychiatry website.