Stigma: “The disapproval of an individual or group based on perceivable social characteristics that separate them from other members of society.”
Discrimination: “The unjust treatment of different categories of people, on grounds of race, sex, age, sexuality or disability.”
When supporting individuals with complex and varied mental ill health, it’s important to consider other factors that may hinder their recovery journey.
As a Mental Health First Aider, you will be made aware of ‘strands of inequality’. These include age, gender, disability, ethnicity, religion and sexuality.
All of these can impact upon the treatment of individuals within society, as the attitude of others towards these characteristics often cause rejection in the form of discrimination.
Prejudice is the perception of others based on prior formed ideas without evidence, and these perception fuel discrimination. As a result, a victim is left to feel less than human, due to being undervalued by others.
This impact upon self-esteem, leaving individuals to feel vulnerable and alone.
This blog post focuses on the strand of sexuality that will influence individuals’ mental health journey and their recovery.
The aim is to promote wider thinking and understanding of the hardships the LGBTQ+ community face, with the result of an inclusive approach to mental health first aid.
Mental health issues in the LGBTQ+ community
“People in the LGBTQ+ communities are more likely to experience mental health issues than other groups and may be less willing to seek professional help.” – MHFA England two day course manual.
With this statement in mind, anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicide are heavily related to the impact of discrimination. This is due to discrimination causing feelings of isolation and exclusion. Individuals of the LGBTQ+ community may not live in a supportive household, and their feelings could be dismissed by others around them due to the perceived difference. As a result, members of this community often internalise negative feelings about themselves, leading to poor self-worth.
Research has also shown that many young people in the LGBTQ+ community often miss days at school – leading to lower grades – and often do not involve themselves in school activities either. This combination of struggling with self-worth and receiving lower grades often results in further problems. Recent research has shown that 13% of schoolchildren are bullied because of their sexuality (https://www.bbc.co.uk/newsround/48866236), causing mental ill health issues such as depression and anxiety.
How can we work together to end discrimination and stigma?
Utilising these figures and research helps us to build a stronger idea of the challenges and hardships that members of the LGBTQ+ community face every day.
And in turn, this also helps us to achieve empathy towards individuals with mental ill health, by approaching recovery techniques through a holistic lens.
This new outlook towards the relationship between sexuality and mental health will focus both Mental Health First Aiders and society towards understanding the motivations behind individuals’ behaviours.
For example the use of self-harm or increased anxiety due to prejudice faced, in order to tailor our approach to recovery.
If this blog has inspired you to join the growing number of Mental Health First Aiders working to help individuals combat mental ill health, you can complete MHFA England training with companies such as ourselves here at Thrive (www.itstime2thrive.co.uk)
Please reach out to these external charities and help lines if you are in need of LGBTQ+ support:
- Stonewall – 0800 050 2020 (www.stonewall.org.uk)
- Lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Switchboard – 0300 330 0630 (switchboard.lgbt)