opinion

Comment | Why we need to talk more about mental health issues in the LGBT community

According to the Mental Health Foundation, there is a disproportioned number of people within the LGBT community struggling with their mental health

2019-02-13

As the UK celebrates LGBT History Month, many people experience mental health issues due to their sexuality.

According to the Mental Health Foundation, there is a disproportioned number of people within the LGBT+ community struggling with their mental health.

Evidence suggests that people in the LGBT community are more likely to experience a range of ailments, including depression, suicidal thoughts, self-harm and alcohol and substance misuse, all of which can be avoided with the proper support and care.

Now, TMS Technician at Smart TMS - the UK's leading mental health clinic specialising in Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation, Chloe Ward, has told Attitude why it's important to speak about mental health.

Mental health in LGBT communities?

People in the LGBT community could be more prone to mental health issues for various reasons, including discrimination (which can include verbal bullying, physical abuse and inequalities) as well as isolation, homophobia and hate crime.

Research nationwide has found that people from the LGBT community are more at risk of suicidal behaviour and self-harm and that they are more likely to develop depression and anxiety compared to the rest of the population.

For some people ‘coming out’ can be a liberating experience but if you come out and experience rejection, it can affect your sense of worth.

This may lead to people feeling that they have to hide their real self which may cause a decline in their mental wellbeing and increase stress.

Fortunately, there is a growing acceptance of the LGBT community in the UK in recent years which is helping to combat such issues.

Why should you speak out about mental health concerns?

It is important to speak out about any mental health concerns as containing your emotions for too long can have serious implications on your health, both mentally and physically.

These emotions can build up and if you do not find a release, can bubble up and weigh on you mentally.

You could benefit from seeking help if:

- You are constantly fatigued or lack energy

- You feel fearful

- You isolate yourself from others

- You no longer find pleasure in old hobbies or activities you previously enjoyed

- You turn to alcohol or drugs to cope with feelings

- You have had thoughts about self-harming or have self-harmed

If you are not ready to speak with friends of family, you could seek help from LGBT support groups.

Here you will be given the opportunity to share your feelings and experiences with others and given advice of where to seek further help, if needed. Don’t suffer in silence, you should get help as soon as you feel the need.

What can be the effect of leaving a mental health issue untreated?

Mental illness is different from some physical illnesses in that they are not often physically identifiable.

However, like many physical illnesses, they do not simply ‘go away’ over time and often the longer they persist they harder they will be to treat.

People with depression, for example, might only experience a handful of symptoms on a few days to start off with, but if left untreated these may expand and become more frequent.

This can start to affect all aspects of your life, which can then have a further knock on impact on your mental wellbeing.

What can you do to manage your mental wellbeing?

It can feel as if you are on your own, but do not see mental illness as a lack of coping skills or personal failure.

Just because people may not see what is going on in your head, doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not happening for you.

I would suggest speaking to someone as soon as you start feeling something isn’t right, whether it is a partner, family member or a professional.

There are professionals out there trained to help you. Some practical advice for managing your mental health is:

- Eat a well-balanced diet

- Avoid smoking and drugs, particularly after drinking as they can leave you more anxious and depressed the next day

- Getting enough of sleep is important for both your physical and mental health, I recommend 6-8 hours

- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption

It is important to also know what triggers your stress and looking for ways to avoid these or cope is key in maintaining good mental health. Activity and exercise can help by adding something you enjoy to your routine.

What can you do if you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health?

Talking to someone when you are struggling with your mental wellbeing may seem difficult, however it is often the first step to take when you are going through a hard time.

If someone has spoken to you about how they are feeling and you feel they may benefit from looking at some treatment options, work together and plan what is best suited for their need.

It is important to give them space to talk and listen to how they are feeling. While it may be upsetting to hear that someone you care about is distressed, you should be patient and remain calm as it may be difficult for them to express their feelings and it may take a while.

It may help to actively research support groups and possibly go to appointments (even if it is just the first one) with them if you can and offer your help where possible.

What is the best course of action options for someone struggling with their mental health?

There are specially trained networks which help to support those in LGBT communities.

There are also low cost or free counselling services available which can be found online or by asking local LGBT services in your town.

Counselling may be helpful as it gives people an opportunity to work together with the therapist on coping-strategies.

If you feel the depression or anxiety is affecting you and you feel counselling or medication may not help, there are drug-free, non-intrusive treatments such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS) available.

This form of treatment uses targeted magnetic pulses to stimulate the areas of the brain affected by mental health conditions to reduce symptoms.