LGBTQ

LGBTQ Mental Health

Without mental health we cannot be healthy. We all experience emotional ups and downs from time to time caused by events in our lives. Mental health conditions go beyond these emotional reactions to specific situations. They are medical conditions that cause changes in how we think and feel and in our mood.

The lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and questioning (LGBTQ) community faces mental health conditions just like the rest of the population. However, you may experience more negative mental health outcomes due to prejudice and other biases. Knowing what challenges you may face as a member of the LGBTQ community and how to find and work with LGBTQ-inclusive providers can help ensure more positive outcomes.

How Do Mental Health Conditions Affect the LGBTQ Community?

LGBTQ individuals are almost 3 times more likely than others to experience a mental health condition such as major depression or generalized anxiety disorder. This fear of coming out and being discriminated against for sexual orientation and gender identities, can lead to depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, thoughts of suicide and substance abuse.

LGBTQ people must confront stigma and prejudice based on their sexual orientation or gender identity while also dealing with the societal bias against mental health conditions. Some people report having to hide their sexual orientation from those in the mental health system for fear of being ridiculed or rejected. Some hide their mental health conditions from their LGBTQ friends.

As a community, LGBTQ individuals do not often talk about mental health and may lack awareness about mental health conditions. This sometimes prevents people from seeking the treatment and support that they need to get better.

Prejudice & Stigma

The effects of this double or dual stigma can be particularly harmful, especially when someone seeks treatment.

Often termed “minority stress,” disparities in the LGBTQ community stem from a variety of factors including social stigma, discrimination, prejudice, denial of civil and human rights, abuse, harassment, victimization, social exclusion and family rejection.

Rates of mental health conditions are particularly high in bisexual and questioning individuals and those who fear or choose not to reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity. Though not all people will face mental health challenges, discrimination or violence, many people report less mental well-being and satisfaction.

Suicide

The LGBTQ community is at a higher risk for suicide because we lack peer support and face harassment, mental health conditions and substance abuse. For LGBTQ people aged 10–24, suicide is one of the leading causes of death. LGBTQ youth are 4 times more likely and questioning youth are 3 times more likely to attempt suicide, experience suicidal thoughts or engage in self-harm than straight people. Between 38-65% of transgender individuals experience suicidal ideation.

Family support plays a particularly important role in affecting the likelihood of suicide. Someone who faced rejection after coming out to their families were more than 8 times more likely to have attempted suicide than someone who was accepted by their family after revealing their sexual orientation.

Substance Abuse

The LGBTQ community reports higher rates of drug, alcohol and tobacco use than that of straight people. Major factors that contribute to substance use by LGBTQ people include prejudice, discrimination, lack of cultural competency in the health care system and lack of peer support.An estimated 20-30% of LGBTQ people abuse substances, compared to about 9% of the general population.25% of LGBT people abuse alcohol, compared to 5-10% of the general population.

LGBTQ Youth

LGBTQ young people face fear, hatred and prejudice in school, with friends, in the community and at home, which can lead to higher risks of self-harm and thoughts of suicide. LGBTQ teens are six times more likely to experience symptoms of depression than the general population. Additionally, LGBTQ youth struggle in coming out to family members, friends, classmates and teachers, especially those that are not accepting of the LGBTQ community.

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network has developed an annual report called the National School Climate Survey, which reports on the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in U.S. schools.

Early intervention, comprehensive treatment and family support are the key to helping LGBTQ youth on the road to recovery from a mental health condition. There are many resources available to help teens and young adults, including the It Gets Better campaign and The Trevor Project, which provides a national, 24-hr, toll-free confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ youth at 866-488-7386. The Trevor Project also provides an online chat and confidential text messaging—text “Trevor” to 202-304-1200.

Disparities in Care

The history of mental health treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) populations is an uneasy one. In the 1950s and 60s, many psychiatrists believed that homosexuality, as well as bisexuality, was a mental illness. Gay men and lesbians were often subjected to treatment against their will, including forced hospitaliza­tions, aversion therapy and electroshock therapy.

Fortunately, there have been great strides made in the nearly 35 years since the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or the DSM. Despite this, there are still disparities and unequal treatment among LGBTQ groups seeking care.

Though more therapists and psychiatrists today have positive attitudes toward the LGBTQ community, people still face unequal care due to a lack of training and/or understanding. Health care providers still do not always have up-to-date knowledge of the unique needs of the LGBTQ community or training on LGBT mental health issues. Providers who lack knowledge and experience working with members of the LGBTQ community may focus more on a person’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity than a person’s mental health condition.

Finding a Provider

You may feel hesitant to access care because you fear being discriminated. While these concerns are completely understandable, it is important to seek help.

Finding a mental health care provider that takes into account your personal experiences and how they affect your mental health will help you in your recovery. While there are some LGBTQ-specific mental health treatment centers and providers who are LGBTQ friendly and culturally competent, the majority of centers and providers do not know how to treat LGBTQ individuals or can be consciously or unconsciously biased.

Try to find a mental health provider you can trust. You should feel comfortable with your provider so that you can be open and feel safe. Ideally you will find a provider that is LGBTQ- friendly and knowledgeable about the specific cultural considerations and issues faced by LGBTQ individuals with mental health conditions.

Come with questions you want to ask so that you can be better prepared to share your concerns. After your initial visit think about your interactions. Did this person seem at ease with you? Did he or she talk openly about your sexuality or gender identity? Did you feel comfortable?

Here are some ideas to help locate an LQBTQ-inclusive provider:

Tips for Talking to Your Provider

  • If you feel comfortable, come out when you meet with your provider.
  • Ask questions about the provider’s experience working with LGBTQ people.
  • Be confident about disclosing relevant information about your sexual orientation and/or gender identity.
  • Be open about your thoughts and feelings of depression, suicide, anxiety, fear and self-harm.
  • Ask for more information about any health-care-related referrals, including to other therapists and psychiatrists.

Support & Resources (National)

If you are experiencing a mental health condition, it’s possible to take control of your health care and improve your chance of recovery. There are a number of resources available:

Support & Resources (Local)

The information below was compiled by SAGA (Sexuality and Gender Acceptance), which is an interfaith and no-faith affirming place for all sexualities, genders, and sexes in Hatboro, PA that holds regular support groups and events.

  • Crisis Support
  • Healthcare
    • Planned Parenthood
      401 West Broad Street, Quakertown, PA 18951 – 215-536-2684
      610 Louis Drive, Warminster, PA 18974 – 215-957-7980
      “Planned Parenthood is one of the nation’s leading providers of high-quality, affordable health care, and the nation’s largest provider of sex education. With or without insurance, you can always come to us for your health care.”
    • Einstein Healthcare Network PRIDE Program
      5501 Old York Road, Philadelphia, PA 19141
      A safe, professional and innovative medical practice, dedicated to your specific health needs, including:

      • OB/GYN services: Reproductive healthcare, diagnosis and treatment of pelvic floor conditions, counseling and treatment for menopause.
      • Mental Health and Wellness services: Long and short term therapy, medication management, patient navigation support.
      • Trans Care: Top surgery, hormone therapy, trans competent OB/GYN care.
      • Patients are seen by appointment on Tuesday evenings, once a month from 5–7 pm. To learn more about the Pride Program and other services we are offering the LGBTQ+ community or to make an appointment, please call Kalen McLean at 215-420-0989. We make every effort to accommodate your needs, whether urgent or routine.
    • Mazzoni Center
      1348 Bainbridge Street, Philadelphia, PA 19147
      215-563-0658
      Located in Philadelphia, PA, Mazzoni Center Family & Community Medicine offers compassionate, comprehensive health care with a primary focus on the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender individuals.
      (Primary care, HIV/AIDS care, On-site pharmacy, Adolescent health, Women’s health, Behavioral health consultation, Hepatitis C care, Medical case management, PrEP/PEP, 340B program: helping uninsured patients access medication, Community health Navigation Services, Mental and behavioral health, Walk-in HIV and STD testing, Adolescent drop-in clinic, Trans clinical care services, Pediatric and adolescent comprehensive transgender services (PACTS), Sisterly love: support for trans women, Peer support groups, Training and resources for providers, Trans Care Services Internship Program)
    • GLMA Healthcare Directory
      GLMA’s mission is to ensure equality in healthcare for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) individuals and healthcare providers.
    • OutCare Health Directory
      Providing  information and education on lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer (LGBTQ) healthcare and connecting individuals with the most appropriate healthcare providers, resources, and events.
  • Mental Health
    • LGBTQ+ Youth & Young Adult Group
      17 Barclay Street, Suite B3, Newtown, PA 18940
      Are you a young person who identifies as Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer/Questioning or Intersex? This group is a supportive, affirming place to discuss living as a LGBTQI+ individual in today’s world. Come express yourself and explore your identity in a safe space! Register by emailing Kayti at coordinator@buckslgbtq.com. $35 per group.
    • Bucks LGBTQ Center
      17 Barclay Street, Suite B3, Newtown, PA 18940
      (267) 753-3005
      Bucks LGBTQ Center is unique in providing individual therapy by Masters and Doctoral level therapists with specific training around supporting and affirming LGBTQ clients and their families.  Groups are run by well-trained and experienced therapists. The beautiful space at the Barclay Building, home to Bucks Eating Support Collaborative, Newtown Therapy & Wellness Center, and Newtown Yoga, allows clients to add on other services: nutrition, massage, yoga, meditation, wellness classes, personal training, acupuncture, hypnotherapy & Reiki/energy work. Bucks LGBTQ Center is home to a variety of events for clients, workshops for families, training for professionals, and free events for LGBTQ+ people and the community
    • Pink and Blues Support Group
      The Church of St. Luke and The Epiphany – Blue Room
      330 S. 13th St. (between Spruce and Pine) Philadelphia, PA 19107
      215-627-0424
      (Enter courtyard look for single red door to the right down access ramp)
      We are a mutual self-help, peer support and resource exchange group for persons living with mental health, substance use and/or health conditions who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, two-spirit, questioning adults and our allies. It’s a safe space to explore our dualities, discover recovery opportunities and alternatives to suicide, self-abuse, trauma, loneliness, etc.
      Free and open for you! Meets Every Wednesday 7:00 – 9:00 PM. Doors open at 6:50pm – please arrive by 7pm or soon after.
    • Psychology Today Directory
      Search for therapists or treatment centers by specialty, insurance, location, and more.​
  • Legal
    • ACLU of Pennsylvania
      ACLU of Pennsylvania works to secure total rights for LGBT people by working to defend and expand the individual rights and personal freedoms afforded to us all by the state and federal constitutions and the Bill of Rights.
    • Equality Pennsylvania
      Equality Pennsylvania is an organization which advocates throughout Pennsylvania for LGBT rights. Equality Pennsylvania also attempts to advance LGBT friendly policy and legislative initiatives.
  • Employment
  • Youth, Families, and Community
    • PFLAG
      Parents, Families, and Friends of Lesbians and Gays promotes the health and well being of LGBTQ people, their families and friends through support (to cope with an adverse society), education (to inform and enlighten the public), and advocacy (to end discrimination and to secure equal civil rights).
    • Bucks County PFLAG
      Penns Park, PA
      (215) 348-9976
    • Bullying Prevention (PA Dept. of Education)
      1-866-716-0424

      Messages can be left 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and will be returned Mon.-Fri. during normal business hours. The Bullying Prevention Consultation Line is a toll free number that will allow individuals experiencing chronic and unresolved bullying to discuss effective strategies and available resources to deal with school-based bullying; and is available, to students, parents/guardians and school districts across the state of Pennsylvania.
  • Addictions Help
    • LGBT Safe Rehab Programs
      855-396-3011

      We are available day and night even if you just need someone to talk to. Our admissions coordinators provide a confidential assessment and will review with you the best treatment options for the situation if you need it.
    • SMART Recovery
      (Self-Management And Recovery Training) is not a 12-step group. It is an online 4-Point Program® that sponsors face-to-face meetings around the world, and daily online meetings to help people recover from all types of addictive behaviors. Online message board and 24/7 chat room are excellent forums to learn about SMART Recovery and obtain addiction recovery support.
    • LGBT-friendly 12-step meetings
      (directory on pages 31-33)
  • Spiritual and Interfaith