Imagine you feel ‘different’ at a young age and you are told that your difference is unacceptable by the society
Mental health issues are on the rise recently, as has raised awareness towards mental health. In comparison to the previous decade, mental health and mental health issues are no longer viewed through the lens of ‘being mad’ or ‘becoming insane.’
People seem to have become more aware of and empathetic to persons with mental health issues. People frequently are vocal about issues such as depression, anxiety, distress, and so on.
Awareness has made it easier for people to understand the difficulties that a person with mental health issues goes through and hence the feeling of empathy has also grown in individuals. Even then, a segment of the population continues to be excluded from receiving mental health services.
This group of people is primarily made up of the socially underprivileged, who are not only denied access to mental health care but also face societal discrimination.
LGBTQ is an acronym that stands for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, or Questioning. LGBTQ is frequently used as an umbrella term for individuals with diverse genders or sexual orientations.
The stigma and stereotypes that surround the LGBTQ+ community, as well as the prejudice that members of the group encounter, stem from the fact that they must live a dual life to be accepted in society.
The urge to be someone they are not, and then attempting to live with the truth behind that mask, has increased in the frequency of mental health concerns among LGBTQ+ people.
Growing up in a society where heterosexuality is often promoted as the only acceptable orientation and other sexualities are considered aberrant, LGBTQ+ persons confront enormous challenges.
They continue to experience discrimination and marginalization in all aspects of life around the world. On a social level, LGBTQ+ individuals are socially excluded. They have little influence over their lives and the resources accessible to them; they may become stigmatized and are frequently subjected to negative public attitudes.
Likewise, such prejudice and discrimination on an individual level may have a massive impact on their mental health, particularly if the individuals attempt to conceal or deny their sexual orientation. Individuals may struggle with self-awareness of their sexual orientation at times.
A year into the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly 75% of LGBTQ+ people report that COVID-19 has harmed their mental health. On #WorldMentalHealthDay we’re sharing resources and discussing the importance of self-compassion. #WMHD2021 https://t.co/6OlIe9bsfF
— Human Rights Campaign (@HRC) October 10, 2021
In addition, the society also makes it difficult for individuals to accept their own identity because their identity is seen as unnatural, making it harder for them to accept their own identity. These two reasons are the prime factors that contribute to the mental health issues among LGBTQ+ people.
Not only that, due to the societal stigma associated with the LGBTQ+ population, they do not seek professional help.
Apart from this, coming out is a crucial step, emotionally and mentally for LGBTQ+ folks. Research has shown that feeling positive about one’s sexual orientation and integrating such an identity into one’s life fosters greater well-being. LGBTQ+ individuals are at a greater risk for poor mental health across developmental stages.
Various studies have pointed out the increased rates of mental health issues such as depression, anxiety disorders, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), substance use and abuse, and suicidal ideations and attempts in the community.
For instance, a research report on mental health disparities of LGBTQ+ by the American Psychological Association (2017) found that LGBTQ+ individuals were more than twice as likely as heterosexual men and women to have a mental health disorder in their lifetime.
They were 2.5 times more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and substance misuse compared with heterosexual individuals. LGBTQ+ older adults face several unique challenges, including the combination of anti- LGBTQ+ stigma and ageism.
Approximately 31% of LGBTQ+ older adults report depressive symptoms; 39% report serious thoughts of taking their own lives.
Keeping all these things in mind arises the question: what can we do? Today, more Indian youths are accepting of queer and diverse identities than ever before, but acceptance of their sexuality and the freedom of expression of their choices remain a constant struggle for LGBTQ+ people within their families, homes, and schools.
In urban India, social media, other corporate, and non-governmental initiatives are playing a vital role in raising the awareness of LGBTQ+ people. However, these initiatives are not sufficient.
Even today, the people from rural areas have their way to deal with the LGBTQ+ people away from LGBT pride parades, meet-ups, and intense Twitter debates.
Here, I would like to say that we should not discriminate against people only based on religion, caste, race, ethnicity, sex, place of origin but also on the ground of sexuality as well. They are also human beings. They also deserve to have equal rights as we do.
Thus, there is a need for awareness regarding the LGBTQ+ people at the individual, state, and national levels for acceptance of the LGBTQ+ community by society. This will help to change social attitudes toward them. Besides, the government, non-governmental organizations, educational institutions should organize workshops and seminars about their rights.
Special Counselling centers should be established at the district level to help the LGBTQ+ people fighting mental illness. More research should be conducted on the LGBTQ+ community to make people understand sexual minorities, associated prejudices, and their impact.