- The LGBTQ+ community consists of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or questioning), and other individuals.
- While society is growing increasingly supportive of LGBTQ+, these individuals still face unique challenges that can harm their mental health and overall wellbeing.
- Fortunately, counseling can help; with issues like deciding how and when to come out, dealing with discrimination, and managing mental illness.
- On the subject of mental illness in the LGBTQ+ community, these individuals are more than twice as likely to develop a mental illness at some point in their lives.
- Counselors can help their LGBTQ+ clients by first getting to know them, including the challenges they face and their life goals.
- After the counselors get to know their client better, they can then design treatment to best help them.
The LGBTQ+ community is comprised of individuals who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer (or questioning), and others. Fortunately, our society is becoming increasingly supportive of this community, in part thanks to the brave celebrities who have spoken their truth. Take Ellen DeGeneres, for example. She came out as gay in a 1997 issue of Time Magazine, and the entertainment industry was less than supportive. Ellen lost her TV show as well as other important opportunities, but she didn’t let it dull her light. Instead, she picked herself up and continued to move forward. She didn’t shy away from her true self but became an inspiring voice for the LGBTQ+ community as she trailblazed into her comedy career. Today, she continues to garner support for LGBTQ+.
All of that said, people in the LGBTQ+ community still face unique challenges that threaten their mental health on a day to day basis. And often, professional assistance is necessary and helpful. LGBTQ+ individuals can find the support they need in a mental health professional. There are counselors who specialize in helping the LGBTQ+ community with the unique issues they face, of which we will cover below.
There are challenges unique to LGBTQ+ individuals. Take, for example, deciding how and when to come out to friends and family. Or dealing with the discrimination and non-acceptance they may face on a daily basis. Other issues that are common in the LGBTQ+ community center around:
- Dating and building other relationships
- Transcending gender roles
- Depression and anxiety
- Family concerns
- Lack of self-esteem
You might notice that many of the items listed above are rooted in mental illness. That’s because there is a huge mental health disparity among the LGBTQ+ community. These individuals are more likely to suffer from a mental health condition. Consider a few statistics:
- LGBTQ+ individuals are more than twice as likely to develop a mental illness at some point in their lifetime.
- People in the LGBTQ+ community are 2.5 times more likely to suffer from depression, anxiety, and substance abuse.
- 31% of older LGBTQ+ adults report depression symptoms, and 39% report serious thoughts of suicide.
Counseling can help individuals in the LGBTQ+ community to address these challenges, from the mental illnesses they may struggle with to the other issues prevalent among this group. Let’s talk about how.
Can Counseling Help LGBTQ+ Individuals?
The mental health disparity mentioned above begs the need for proper mental health care for LGBTQ+ individuals. Fortunately, more and more counselors understand the challenges these people face and know how to best serve them. Often, they will start by getting to know the individual, including their unique presentation of issues as well as their goals for life. They might ask the following to get to know you better:
- What are your interests?
- Are you currently in a relationship?
- What is your living situation like?
- Are you happy with your life right now?
- What are you struggling with?
- Where do you hope to be in 5 years?
It’s important to know that counseling focuses on more than just the identified problem at hand. The ultimate mission in counseling is to help the client live an overall happier, healthier life. This often means that one’s counseling sessions will involve discussing and working toward their goals in addition to making positive changes to best benefit mental health and wellbeing. That said, no one counseling journey is the same: your counselor will design treatment based on all of the information they gather in your initial sessions. The end goal, though, is always the same: to help you live better.