The Link Between the LGBTIQ+ Community and the Prevalence of Mental Health Disorders

CW: This article discusses topics of mental illness which could be distressing to some readers.


The Equality Act of 2010 provided a level of protection for LGBTIQ+ individuals in the workplace. Individuals were safeguarded from discrimination, harassment, and victimisation at work. Promoting a fair and equal environment for everyone to thrive in was essential for the running of companies and for employee wellbeing. Over a decade has passed since the ban came into force, however, there continues to be a steady flow of psychological research shining a light on poor mental health within the LGBTIQ+ community. This leads to the question of: what can society do to protect the mental health of the LGBTIQ+ community?


Mental Health within the LGBTIQ+ Community


Fortunately, there has been a reduction in the stigma surrounding mental health disorders, allowing more people access to support in a free and non-judgemental way. Despite the increase in accessibility to support, mental health disorders within the LGBTIQ+ are still very prominent.


The mental health organisation Mind reported that members of the LGBTIQ+ community, are more likely to develop mental health disorders including depression and anxiety. It is estimated that 70% of the bisexual participants reported having a diagnosis of at least one mental health disorder, mainly depression and anxiety. Having multiple diagnoses, known as co-morbidity, is also a common occurrence.


Why do LGBTIQ+ People Have More Mental Disorders?


Mental health disorders stem from a range of factors, such as genes, chemical imbalances, but also the environment you are in.


Research from Stonewall reported that 14% of LGBTIQ+ people said that they avoided getting treatment for their mental health disorders due to fear of discrimination. Of those who have reached out, 5% reported that they would change their sexuality on health questionnaires as a preventative tactic against prejudice. Leaving mental health disorders untreated is harmful to the individual and will negatively impact their life.


Fear of judgement extends to a variety of places, including school, the workplace, and families. Being excluded from a group, known as social exclusion, can manifest in many ways. Perhaps they feel that they would be judged if they spoke about their sexuality, or maybe they are open about their sexuality and are faced with judgement. When an individual is excluded based on a characteristic, they are viewed negatively and are less likely to receive support from those around them. In turn, the lack of a support system often led to higher levels of depression and lower levels of self-esteem.


What Can be Done to Reduce Mental Health Disorders in the LGBTIQ+ Community?


Media is a powerful communication tool and should be used to increase inclusivity and to raise awareness of the LGBTIQ+ community. For example, classic family shows like Strictly Come Dancing and Dancing on Ice are including same-sex couples. Not only does this contribute to diversity within the media world, but young people are also surrounded by dancers and ice skaters of all sexualities. Doing so reduces social isolation and exclusion, demonstrating that your sexuality should be embraced and is welcomed in all aspects of life.


Making mental health support easily available is another way to reduce mental health disorders within the LGBTIQ+ community. A simple way to implement this could be through creating or joining LGBTIQ+ societies/groups at university or work. Being surrounded by other LGBTIQ+ individuals massively reduces feelings of isolation and also provides a non-judgemental environment for individuals to speak about their feelings and relate to others.


Ensuring confidentiality and anonymity may be highly beneficial for members of the LGBTIQ+ community that fear discrimination when accessing treatment. Equally, mental health staff should undertake further training regarding providing a safe space for LGBTIQ+ individuals.


As individuals, we can also take steps towards supporting those around us, especially members of the LGBTIQ+ community. It may feel simplistic but reading this article and expanding your knowledge on mental health disorders within the LGBTIQ+ community is highly beneficial. Having this understanding allows you to offer a new level of empathy towards an LGBTIQ+ individual. Even reaching out to a friend to check on their well-being can make a world of a difference to them, and also break down the barriers that the LGBTIQ+ community face on a daily basis.