Homophobia (and Transphobia) Needs to Have No Home Here
To continue with the theme of Mental Health Awareness Month, I’ll be highlighting LGBTQ mental health in this post. This topic is important to me because part of my work includes working with children and teens dealing with anxiety and depression. And often times, their sense of identity is a factor.
As a result, I hear firsthand stories about bullying that kids experience and how they feel out of place. I see the anxiety and can feel the depression. These kids are suffering.
Why are they suffering, you ask? Partly it’s due to the homophobia and transphobia that still exists in our society. So part of this post’s inspiration is because today’s the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia (IDAHOT). May 16th, the day before was Honor Our LGBT Elders Day.
While the full history is important, getting into this full history is beyond what I want to do here. Let’s just say that Western society’s view of homosexuality is complex. I encourage you to learn more about it so that you can better understand our collective history.
As it pertains to mental health, though, the first two editions of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders considered homosexuality to be a mental illness. With the label of “sociopathic personality disturbance” in the DSM-I, homosexuality became “sexual deviation” with the publication of the DSM-II in 1968. Being gay was no longer considered a mental illness with the removal of “sexual deviation” from the DSM-II in 1973. (Although given that conversion therapy is a thing, it’s obvious that there are still some people out there who think that it’s something that can be “cured” or “changed”).
A variety of factors led to the decision to remove homosexuality from the DSM-II. One reason was due to the cultural and social changes of the 1950s through the 1970s. Another was due to how people were understanding human sexuality thanks to the human sexuality research of Alfred Kinsey and colleagues during the 1940s and 1950s. Through their studies, people began to understand that sexuality has variance. It isn’t binary.
However, the World Health Organization (WHO) didn’t remove homosexuality from its list of mental disorders until 1990. May 17, 1990, as a matter of fact. This is why IDAHOT is today.
Statistics on LGBTQ Mental Health
Below are a number of statistics relating to the general mental health of LGBTQ people throughout the life span:
- According to the National Association for Mental Illness, LGBTQ individuals are almost 3 times as likely to experience a mental health condition, such as depression or anxiety.
- This applies to children as well. According to the Healthy Kids Colorado Survey, 50% of the LGBTQ kids in the Boulder Valley School District experience Depressive Symptoms.
- LGBTQ older adults don’t have it much easier. Due to the prejudice that many experienced during their younger years, today’s LGBTQ older adults may have other socioeconomic factors that can negatively contribute to their mental health.
Thanks in part to the internet and social media, such prejudices can become amplified amongst a larger audience. As a result, cyberbullying and online violence is another problem that negatively impacts mental health. Below are some statistics from the 2019 campaign for
- A study by VpnMentor finds that 73% of LGBTQ+ people say they have been personally attacked or harassed online.
- Another study shows that 35% of LGBT youth who were bullied online reported having suicidal ideation due to cyberbullying.
Unfortunately, cyberbullying appears to be becoming more common. Increasing rates of cyberbullying in the last 13 years rates show that it isn’t slowing down. As well, about 1/5 of LGBT youth think that “cyberbullying is a normal and unavoidable part of life.”
Why This Needs to Improve
These statistics should be a sobering reason why this needs to improve. Too much human potential is lost because of bigotry. This is not what we should be as a society. I hold this to be true for all parties involved.
Looking for Mental Health Help?
Are you the parent of a teen who is questioning their identity? Do you have concerns about their mental health? If so, reach out to me so we can talk about what’s going on.
As well, reach out if you have concerns about your own mental health. You don’t have to be alone. I want to help you if I can because I value being able to positively contribute to the development of healthy, inclusive communities.