As we marked Pride Month this June, we can’t ignore the mental health issues those in the LGBTQ+ community face. Their need for mental health services is evident, yet still, many LGBTQ+ people struggle to receive the proper care they need and deserve. In fact, according to The Trevor Project, 60 percent of LGBTQ+ youth who wanted mental health care in the past year were unable to get it.
LGBTQ+ Mental Health Treatment Barriers
There are many barriers to mental health services in America, but those in the LGBTQ+ often struggle more. Some of these barriers apply across the board, and some are more specific to those in the LQBTQ population. Some barries include:
One of these barriers is the cost of mental health care. For example, a study from UCLA found that 17 percent of the gender queer minority adults are twice as likely as the general population to have a history of homelessness in their lifetime. Between a high rate of homelessness and lacking robust support systems, the financial burden of accessing quality mental health resources can be
incredibly challenging. As a result, many in the LGBTQ+ community remain homeless, further impacting their access to necessary mental health care.
Finding an Affirming Mental Health Care Provider
Even if LGBTQ+ individuals can afford care they may still face obstacles, such as finding an affirming provider. While Pride Month celebrates this community’s strides over several decades, homophobia and discrimination are unfortunately still widespread in American society today.
Those in the LGBTQ+ population may find this when seeking mental healthcare. Members of this community sometimes feel ashamed or fearful when it comes to sharing their mental health concerns if they perceive that their provider won’t be accepting of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Even if a mental health care provider is inclusive and able to provide a stigma-free environment, they may not be culturally competent or experienced in treating LGBTQ+ specific mental health issues, including:
- Internalized homophobia
- Fears of coming out
- Substance use
A Previous Negative Experience
Having a bad experience can also prevent someone from seeking the mental health services they need. For example, suppose a member of the LGBTQ+ community previously sought mental health care and felt it wasn’t a safe space, judged, or simply that it didn’t help the situation. In that case, they may be disinclined to seek help again, even with a different provider.
Some areas of the country have more access to mental health services in general or better mental health services for those who identify as LGBTQ+. For example, The Trevor Project found that LGBTQ youth who lived in the South (58%), West (56%), and Midwest (53%) regions of the U.S. expressed higher levels of unmet mental health care needs than those located in the Northeast (47%).
Many in the LGBTQ+ community report that access to transportation is a barrier to receiving the mental health care they need. Even if they have people who will provide transportation to other places, they are afraid of their ride finding out where they are going and why.
Tips for Finding an LGBTQ+ Friendly Mental Health Care Provider
If you are seeking an LGBTQ-competent mental health care provider, NAMI recommends the following tips:
Think About What You’re Looking For
- Do you want a provider who is LGBTQ+ themselves?
- Can the provider have a baseline competency in LGBTQ+ issues, or do you want them to specialize in this type of care?
Identifying what you do and don’t want in a mental health provider, researching, and asking questions can help you find a provider who best fits your needs.
Don’t Be Afraid to Ask Questions
Mental health providers anticipate and welcome questions from their prospective clients, which helps them understand what’s important in their treatment. Be honest and tell the provider that you are looking for an LGBTQ+ competent professional. Then, consider asking the following questions:
- What experience do you have with the LGBTQ+ community?
- My identity is ________. What experience do you have working with individuals like me?
- Do you have any specific training, education, or certifications related to working with LGBTQ+ clients?
Resources Available to You or a Loved One
Accessing mental health care and selecting the right provider isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it. You might be surprised at the resources available to you that can help you find, get to, and pay for the services you or your loved one needs. Many excellent resources exist to help the LGBTQ+ community on their mental wellness journey, such as those provided by:
- The Trevor Project
- The LGBT National Help Center
- Society for Sexual, Affectional, Intersex, and Gender Expansive Identities (SAIGE)
- The Association of Gay and Lesbian Psychiatrists
- The Gay and Lesbian Medical Association’s Provider Directory
If you or someone you know is currently looking for mental health care resources you can always reach out to us for help.
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