Mental health issues are widespread in this day and age, but within minorities, these issues are more prevalent, with members having higher rates of mental illness than seen in the general population. This remains true when examining the LGBTQ+ community, which has been marginalized for centuries. Studies involving queer or questioning individuals, both on their own and in comparison to their heterosexual counterparts, have shown this to be true.
A large part of the difference in the rates in mental illness stems from stigma and discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, as the LGBTQ+ community has been clearly designated as “other” in the eyes of society (Veltman & Chaimowitz, 2014). This outsider status leads to fear and concern for safety, as individuals can experience verbal taunts, exclusion, and sometimes violence in very public areas such as parks, colleges, and restaurants (Vaccaro & Mena, 2011). All of this can lead to the presence of a wide range of mental illnesses, the most common among them being depression and anxiety.
Potential stressors aren’t located just outside the individual’s communities, however. Individuals who identify as both queer and as people of color have stated that when it comes to racism, they feel well supported by their communities, with a support system in place if something were to ever happen (Vaccaro & Mena, 2011). However, although they can turn to others when it comes to racial issues, they do not have the same support exploring their sexual and gender identities and the problems that could arise if they were to freely attempt to express them. Part of this may be due to cultural and religious beliefs that being queer is a sin, or simply attempts to conform to societal standards as a minority group, one that faces threats of its own (Vaccaro & Mena, 2011).
Whatever the case may be, this leaves queer individuals of color without proper rolemodels, people who can guide them through what they are going through and provide advice specific to their experience as both a queer individual and a person of color, as the general experiences of the LGBTQ+ community does not factor in specific cultures and nationalities. These experiences, added on top of the strugge to figuring out your identity and undergoingthe process of living life, ultimately build up the stress queer individuals face.
With this in mind, it’s no surprise that 26% of queer students report severe psychological distress, as opposed to 18% of non-queer students, and were 1.87 times more likely to use the mental health resources offered by their college than other students (Dunbar et. al, 2017). It is also interesting to note that different racial groups responded differently to the issues arising from mental health, with their coping strategies different from one another. In this particular study, queer black students reported more engagement in religious activities, while queer Latino students had higher levels of social activity (Vaccaro & Mena, 2011). What remained the same, however, was the importance of a social support system in handling mental illness, especially as an individual belonging to multiple marginalized groups.
Dunbar, Sontag-Padilla, L., Ramchand, R., Seelam, R., & Stein, B. D. (2017). Mental Health Service Utilization Among Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Questioning or Queer College Students. Journal of Adolescent Health, 61(3), 294–301. https://doi.org/10.1016/ j.jadohealth.2017.03.008
Vaccaro, & Mena, J. A. (2011). It’s Not Burnout, It’s More: Queer College Activists of Color and Mental Health. Journal of Gay & Lesbian Mental Health, 15(4), 339–367. https://doi.org/ 10.1080/19359705.2011.600656
Veltman, & Chaimowitz, G. (2014). mental health care for people who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and (or) queer. Canadian Journal of Psychiatry, 59(11), 1–8.