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LGBTQ+ Empowerment

Supporting the Mental Health of LGBTQ+ People

Photo: Courtesy of Ben Blennerhassett

For LGBTQ+ people stigma, prejudice, and discrimination can increase the likelihood of stress, depression, and other mental health concerns.


Maggie G. Mortali, MPH

Senior Program Director, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Studies show that LGBTQ+ people are more likely to experience depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts than their straight and cisgender peers. It is important to note, though, that these mental health disparities for LGBTQ+ people have nothing to do with their being LGBTQ+. Rather, they are largely the result of external factors. Many LGBTQ+ people face prejudice and discrimination, family rejection, and harassment and mistreatment.

While this presents challenges, there is still hope. The LGBTQ+ community is, and has always been, resilient. We all have a role to play in supporting LGBTQ+ people. 

How to be an effective ally to the LGBTQ+ community

Make sure they know you support them and that you care. Remember that everyone is different, so avoid making assumptions about what you may already know about mental health or LGBTQ+ issues. Remind the person they are valued. 

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Start a conversation about mental health when it feels natural to do so. Be open about your own experiences, and let them know you are truly listening, nonjudgmentally. Ask them about any changes in their life and how they are coping. Reassure them you hear what they are saying, and that you are taking them seriously. 

Be direct if you suspect they are thinking about suicide. Trust your gut and ask them directly: “Are you thinking about killing yourself?” Make sure not to pass judgement or guilt-trip the person. Instead, reassure them that you understand and care. 

Let them know it is OK to ask for help. Offer to help them connect with support. 

Available resources for the LGBTQ+ community

Finding an LGBTQ+-affirming and competent mental health professional can be helpful. When beginning a search for a provider, many mental health professional directories, including insurance company websites, include search filters to locate providers who have a specialty or competency in working with LGBTQ+ people.

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Resources such as the Finding Help directory from Mental Health America (MHA) and the National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network directory are also good places to start. Other options include gathering referrals from local LGBTQ+ community or health centers, LGBTQ+ community groups, social organizations, support groups, as well as affirming places of worship. 

Other resources can also be helpful. The Trevor Project provides confidential support for LGBTQ+ youth in crisis, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The SAGE LGBT Elder Hotline connects older people with friendly responders, and the Trans Lifeline is a 24/7 hotline available in the United States and Canada, staffed by transgender people for transgender people. 

It’s often the smallest actions that make the biggest difference. Just as with any of us, speaking openly about mental health, reducing shame, and letting others know it’s smart to reach out for help when they need it can save lives, and make the world a better place for all of us. 

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