It's time to take notice of LGBT mental health

Dallas Dykes for the 1979 March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights

In the UK, we like to think that sexual minorities don’t suffer. We have same-sex marriage, legislation that’s scrubbed out injustices from our murky history, and plenty of high profile LGBT individuals. It's partly for that reason that the LGBT community are denied specificity and the complications that arise from homophobia slip under the radar. The great irony in the struggle for same-sex equality is that while everyone's been celebrating the greater visibility of LGBT individuals, their mental health and wellbeing - the very area that desperately needs discussion - has been deteriorating.

It's for good reason that IDAHOT's theme this year is mental health and wellbeing. Mental disorders are 2-5 times the rate in LGBT people compared to heterosexual people, and it's unsurprising when you look at why. The stress caused from homophobia that we live, each and every day, has been found to be a precipitant of mental illness. With sexual orientation microaggressions - delivered through looks, gestures, comments, and eye rolls - being found to cause low-level PTSD, tackling homophobia is more crucial than ever. Vital services like Pink Therapy are working to provide high quality care to LGBT people, but the reality is just 4p in every £100 of voluntary sector income goes to LGBT services; while others, like PACE, have expired altogether.

"We need dedicated governmental support to relevel the playing field, and ensure the specific needs of LGBT individuals are properly addressed in public healthcare".

The situation of LGBT people around the world, meanwhile, remains evermore precarious. Lives are threatened with stigma, discrimination and violence; spaces for expression slowly suffocated as society and state advance, pincer-like, on activists supporting gender and sexual diversities. More than seventy countries still criminalise homosexuality. In a handful, it carries the death sentence. The World Bank Group meanwhile has indicated that "LGBTI people have lower educational outcomes, higher unemployment rates, as well as inadequate access to healthcare, housing and financial services".

The negative impact of discrimination can never be overemphasised, but with proper care and support, the mental health and experiences of LGBT individuals could be vastly improved. International organisations like The Kaleidoscope Trust, which support activists on the ground and lobbies the government, the EU, the Commonwealth and others to further the conversation around human rights violations are working tirelessly to promote change. At a local level, we need dedicated governmental support to relevel the playing field, and ensure the specific needs of LGBT individuals are properly addressed in public healthcare. We're living in an age where psychotherapists don't know how to talk to LGBT people about sex and relationships; where the continued neglect of a certain percentage of patients is par for the course. Mental health is a human right and goes to the heart of a country's wellbeing – we need to make more noise as to why it's necessary if we want to see the change we deserve.

The twentysomething life crisis

This post was originally published on Gadgette on July 16, 2015

Last year, I read a truly bizarre survey from the Office for National Statistics. The report, exploring the wellbeing of young people in the UK, showed up glowing rates of happiness. Like, suspiciously radioactive levels. Apparently, 8 out of 10 young people aged 16-24 reported high or very high life satisfaction. Staggeringly, only 1 in 10 young people in that age group were finding their financial situation difficult or very difficult in 2011-12. And there was me thinking that all that graduate debt, eternal internships and zero chance of ever buying a house had got the lot of us down.

The Jar of Nice Things

I hadn’t seen the idea online, or on a beautifully curated Pinterest board. It was a fleeting mention actually, bedded into a small print feature in a supplement that smelt like papier-mâché. So insignificant that I almost missed it as my eyes glazed the page.
The kernel of the advice, gleaned from feel-good mantras and psychological principles, was straightforward. Write down all the nice things that happen in your day – not just moments of materialistic gain, like your fancy new gadget gifted to you for your birthday, or the overpriced London restaurant famous for floral canopies that you finally managed to get a table at. Small things, like a nice email from a colleague complimenting you on a project, or a few pink clouds lacing the city smog as you walk home from work. Perhaps a wander through the lantern-thronged streets of Chinatown, or a particularly good passage in your book that described the smell of morning dew. Write down all those little moments it said, on the backs of receipts or scrap bits of paper; fold them in half and half again, and drop them in the jar.