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The Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Questioning, Intersexed, Ace (LGBTQIA+) community represents a diverse, beautiful range of genders, sexes, and sexual orientations. Not to mention a wide range of ethnicities, races, nationalities, social and economic classes. Belonging to the LGBTQIA community, for many, is a source of immense comfort, support, strength, and empowerment. However, it also comes with its own set of challenges, specifically when it comes to mental health.
While mental health—specifically anxiety and depression—does not discriminate, LGBTQIA adults are more likely than heterosexual adults to deal with a mental health condition in their lifetime. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults are more than twice as likely than heterosexual adults to experience depression and anxiety, while transgender adults are almost four times as likely to experience anxiety and depression than cisgender adults. This is due to a phenomenon known as “minority stress.”
What is Minority Stress?
According to the American Psychological Association, “minority stress” is defined as “the relationship between minority and dominant values and resultant conflict with the social environment experienced by minority group members.” In other words, minority individuals are more likely to experience mental health disparities due to hostile working environments, homophobic culture, discrimination, harassment, internalized homophobia, lack of access to adequate mental health care, and more.
So, What Now?
These stressors are chronic and socially based, and increase the likelihood of psychological distress and physical problems as well. However, it is important when dealing with anxiety and depression to remember that you are not alone! The world is becoming increasingly accepting of the LGBTQIA community, and the fight against mental health stigma is stronger than ever before. Luckily, this has led to an increase in resources and remedies for managing mental health, specifically for LGBTQIA adults.
The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) lists multiple coping strategies and fitness tips for managing anxiety and depression. Here are some to try out the next time you are feeling anxious or stressed out:
Meet your basic needs. Get enough sleep (the more stressed your body is, the more rest it requires to function), and eat balanced meals. It is essential to avoid skipping meals as often as possible. If you find you do not have time to sit down for three meals a day, try to start your day with a filling breakfast, water throughout the day, healthy snacks (something simple like an apple and peanut butter), and a well-balanced dinner.
Take deep breaths. When we feel stressed or anxious, our breathing becomes rapid and shallow, which leads to dizziness and light-headedness. Deep breathing helps you slow down and relax physically and mentally. Luckily, there is an abundance of deep breathing exercises online that are quick and easy to follow!
Reach out. Talk to someone you trust, whether it is a friend, a family member, a therapist, or physician. Sometimes simply having someone to vent to makes a world of difference.
Exercise! It is important to aim for about thirty minutes of physical activity a day. This can include anything from walking, running, yoga, HIIT workouts, or even casual day-to-day activities like gardening or cleaning. Many of these can be done right in your living room!
Journaling. Writing down recurring thoughts can help us recognize the source of our depression and ways to navigate our emotions. If writing out a full journal entry seems too intimidating, there are many apps like Daylio or Happify that allow you to do short sentence entries and mood trackers throughout the month.
Seek Professional Help. If you are dealing with severe depressive symptoms, it may be time to reach out to a professional. When searching for a mental health provider, it is essential to find the right fit for you.
Think about what you want from your provider (age, gender, sexual orientation). Gather referrals from peers or doctors. Sometimes simply Googling a therapist is too overwhelming and vague. How much can you really know about someone from a paragraph-long bio? Talking to a primary care doctor or getting a recommendation from a friend can feel much more personal and reassuring. And lastly, reach out to local LGBTQIA support centers. No one should have to deal with depression alone. Having a group of peers to relate to and connect with can reduce feelings of isolation and disconnect. Here is a list of advocacy and support organizations for LGBTQ communities.
What are your thoughts and tips for managing your mental health? Let us know in the comments.
This article is originally published on GREY Journal.