Research shows LGBT adults battle more mental health problems than non-LGBT adults

Published: Jun. 25, 2022 at 9:56 PM CDT
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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3) - According to recent findings from the U.S. Census Bureau, regardless of household type, LGBT adults struggled more with mental health than non-LGBT adults. The research states lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender adults have consistently reported higher rates of symptoms of both anxiety and depression, especially during the pandemic.

A psychologist and the Burrell Behavioral Health Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Director, Shelly Farnan, said she is not surprised by these findings.

“These rates have continued to remain steady through the course of the past many, many years,” Farnan said. “As we think through those disparities, we also want to educate people to the lived experiences of the LGBTQIA community.”

Farnan said one of the reasons LGBT people face more mental health struggles is because they’re not accepted as much as non-LGBT folks, which in turn, creates a multitude of mental health problems.

“The LGBTQIA community is noted to have 2 times higher the rates of anxiety and depression than their non-LGBTQIA counterparts,” Farnan said.

Farnon went on to say suicide in the LGBT community is also high.

“Trans people of color are 48-50 percent more likely to report a thought of attempting suicide,” Farnan said.

She said saying that data point is one thing, but realizing that that many people don’t want to be alive is a statistic she said is not acceptable.

After asking Farnan what are some added stressors LGBT people face that other people don’t face as much, she said, “Hatred, discrimination, the willingness of healthcare providers to serve us, teasing, taunting, staring...” Farnan said.

Farnan used the example of a LGBT person walking into an OBGYN’s office, and not looking like the people assumed to walk in.

A Courage To Be Counselor, Quinn Walsh, said things the LGBT community have to go through are dehumanizing.

“It’s very strange to have your identity not just questioned, but debated on,” Walsh said.

They both said these are just few of the many reasons that contribute to LGBT people’s mental health problems.

Bridget Cunningham, an attendee of the Glo Center Downtown, is apart of the LGBTQIA community. Cunningham said she identifies as a lesbian and an asexual person, but she did disclaim that her experiences are different from others in the community.

“I am white, I am cisgender, I come from a family that has been very accepting and my friends are too,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham said while her privileges have helped her in life, there have still been difficulties.

“I identify as lesbian, and sometimes questions come up from people saying, ”Are you sure?” or “Maybe you just haven’t found the right man yet,” Cunningham said.

She said when people say these phrases to her, it implies there is a moral failing with her being apart of the LGBT community.

“It’s just a different part of me, the same as me being tall, having brown hair, liking certain things over’s apart of who I am.”

Cunningham said places like the Glo Center and her family make her feel comfortable with who she is, but she said she has not always felt comfortable and has felt isolated before.

“I had to hide...constantly,” Cunningham said. “If were to show this integral piece of me, would I be accepted?”

She said these fears weighed on her constantly, contributing to her own mental health issues. She said she battled her own anxieties, especially when she felt rejected and isolated.

However, these trials have made Cunningham stronger, and she is now advocating for others who experience similar hardships. She has become a therapist and will be starting a new job in July as an outpatient therapist.

“I came out well before I wanted to be a therapist, but then I realized having those two things intersect could be very valuable,” Cunningham said.

Cunningham said when she worked with adolescents who were starting to figure out their own identity and sexual orientation, they felt much more comfortable after knowing Cunningham was out and comfortable being out.

“The stress would just melt off their shoulders,” Cunningham said.

Psychologist Shelly Farnan also emphasized that the LGBT community are human beings just like their non-LGBT counterparts.

“We all know and love somebody that is LGBTQIA+, whether we know it or not,” Farnan said. “When LGBTQIA+ folks are seen and known as their true authentic selves, that’s when they can live.”

Farnan said once people can fully accept the LGBT community for who they are, it will change the world for the better.

Farnan listed helpful local and national resources for those in the LGBT community battling mental health issues, such as the Glo Center, PROMO, Human Rights Campaign, PFLAG, the Fenway Institute, and The Trevor Project for youth.

Both Cunningham and Farnan said there is still much work to do in helping aid the LGBTQIA+ community in Springfield and across the world, but resources like the ones listed above can help significantly so those people don’t feel isolated or alone.

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