Mental health is an important issue that has often gone under-acknowledged in the public eye. Fortunately, as more research is being done to help understand mental health and mental illnesses, people who are suffering from mental illnesses can find and receive the help they need. However, a demographic of those who are affected by mental illnesses continue to struggle to find sufficient resources. This demographic includes members of the LGBT community, which is known to have higher rates of diagnosed depression and other forms of mental illness compared to heterosexual and gender-conforming individuals. Recently, this specific issue has also gained some attention from the media which can help find a solution to the problems with mental health among the LGBT community.
Insufficient Resources for Mental Health
Many members of the LGBT community cannot receive proper support for mental health due to the lack of resources tailored for them. Psychiatrists that people seek for help may not be equipped to suit the needs of those who have negative experiences specifically brought upon by their identity with the LGBT community. A form of therapy for issues such as depression and anxiety is group therapy which allows people with similar experiences to share their stories as a way to build a support group with people who understand each other. A study on intervention therapy revealed that intervention groups specific to LGBT members were “effective in decreasing depression severity and increasing self-esteem” (Ross). Because members of the LGBT community affected by depression are likely to share similar experiences because of their identities, group intervention therapy can be very useful to help individuals secure a safe place to be themselves.
Bullying as a Catalyst
Another factor of the mental health issues that members of the LGBT community may often share is exposure to bullying. LGBT students are bullied at higher rates than other students, which can either cause or worsen severe depression. As media perpetuates hetero-normative culture, environments such as schools can lack safe spaces for LGBT students, instead of creating spaces where bullying on the basis of sexual identity can more easily go undetected. The lack of resources in public environments to protect LGBT members increases the risk of danger for LGBT people who are alone in these environments.
How to Begin Healing?
A policy that currently exists to potentially protect LGBT students is Title IX which has been considered a vital tool for preventing the bullying of LGBT students, but Title IX lacks explicit inclusion and protection of LGBT students. First, the interpretation of sex discrimination in the policy is very loose, so while gender equality is technically met, programs can still justify exclusion based on gender as long as alternatives are available. Second, Title IX does not explicitly prohibit “discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity” (Kimmel). By adding clauses to redefine Title IX protections, schools can become safer for LGBT students and prevent mental illnesses caused by bullying that can easily go under the radar of current policies.
The most important step to take for the protection of the LGBT community is education. Many members of the LGBT community are misunderstood and not taken seriously, but if the public could learn more about those who identify beyond hetero-normative expectations, the LGBT community would be normalized, though this continues to be a long fight. While the issue of depression and mental health among the LGBT community is, fortunately, receiving more and more attention and research, there has not been sufficient action taken to begin improving the experiences of LGBT members. The negative attitudes against the LGBT community have to end before people in the LGBT community can truly feel safe because even with some current legal protections, intimate forms of hate such as bullying can continue to go unreported and undetected.