Mental health problems like depression, self-harm, and suicidal thoughts are more common among people in the LGBTQ+ community. For some people, coming out can be a liberating experience, but for others, the fear of rejection from those closest can stop them from being their authentic selves. The concept of coming out is complex in itself. To say that coming out is the lifting of a deep burden is a massive understatement. Research shows that there is psychological relief after coming out with noticeable mental health benefits.
- Mental Health in the LGBTQ+ Community
- The Psychological Effects of Coming Out of the Closet
- Four Mental Health Benefits of Being Out
- Love, Self-Acceptance, and Compassion
- Pride Month: Final Thoughts
Mental Health in the LGBTQ+ Community
Unfortunately, today’s heteronormative society often demands that people in the LGBTQ+ community should come out and declare their gender, identity, or sexual orientation. In a heteronormative society, heterosexuality is the default sexuality.
It’s no secret that LGBTQ+ people are at a higher risk of poor mental health and well-being, such as anxiety, depression, and self-harm. On top of this, as a minority group, they often face discrimination and have to deal with difficult experiences based solely on gender identity and sexuality. This can make it harder to access healthcare when you need it, as you don’t feel safe talking about mental health issues as an LGBTQ+ person.
Research shows that half of LGBTQ+ people have experienced depression. In the previous year, one in eight LGBTQ+ people between eighteen and twenty-four had attempted to end their own lives. Individuals find it harder to access healthcare and this can lead to higher suicide rates and self-harm.
The Psychological Effects of Coming Out of the Closet
Coming out of the closet can be both beneficial and challenging. You are putting a lot on the line to live your authentic self. While it can give you a sense of happiness, pride, and freedom, the journey of coming out can be terrifying.
Although awareness around equality and LGBTQ+ issues is growing, a lack of information can lead to harmful stigmas or stereotypes. One study found that if someone comes out and feels immediately discriminated against, their well-being falls. However, if a person has the support of their friends and family, well-being either stays the same or rises.
While there are many psychological issues surrounding coming out, research shows that coming out can vastly improve someone’s mental health. This is because you’re no longer in a constant state of fear or hiding who you really are.
Four Mental Health Benefits of Being Out
Often, coming out is seen as the end of a healing process. But, in reality, it’s the beginning. As you start to live your life as one whole person, instead of fragmented identities that align with societal norms, it can offer several mental health benefits.
1. Foster a Sense of Community
Telling people that you are LGBTQ+ can be freeing and bring a sense of peace. Of course, being out doesn’t mean that your anxiety or fear of rejection magically goes away. But when you find a sense of community and interact with like-minded individuals who know what you’re going through, it can foster healing. Being part of a community can help reduce feelings of isolation.
2. Feel Empowering
When you’re not living as your authentic self, it can magnify feelings of trauma, anxiety, and depression. Coming out can feel extremely empowering. It’s a massive step toward living an authentic life filled with self-love. But, on the other hand, if you portray yourself to the world in fragments of your identity, the effects of fear, rejection, and harm can have a massively negative impact on your mental health.
3. Fewer Suicidal Thoughts and Depressive Symptoms
Research shows that when young transgender people use their chosen name, their risk for depression and suicide drops. In addition, the study shows that when a young transgender person uses their chosen name in multiple contexts, it affirms their gender identity. As a result, it lowers mental health risks which are commonly high in this group. When a person identifies as their authentic self, it can increase self-esteem, confidence, and reduce suicidal thoughts and symptoms of depression.
4. Lower Stress Levels
Studies show that people who are out to others have lower stress hormone levels. They also experience fewer symptoms of anxiety, burnout, and depression. Cortisol is a stress hormone. When your cortisol levels are elevated for an extended period of time, it can have a negative impact on the body and mind.
Love, Self-Acceptance, and Compassion
While research shows that coming out can have a hugely beneficial effect on your mental health, the process of coming out is extremely personal. Although one person may have had a good experience, it’s not a one-size-fits-all approach. When you have religious, cultural, and family relationships on the line, it’s a complex journey.
That’s why it’s so important to be an ally to the LGBTQ+ community. If someone does choose to come out to you, then feel lucky to be a part of that journey and treat everyone with kindness and openness. Respond with love and compassion, and offer support where you can.
It takes an unexplainable amount of bravery and courage to tell the truth about yourself. But, even if you don’t fully understand a person’s perspective, take the time to learn by yourself. Although you may have a lot of questions, it’s a good idea just to listen and be open. Sometimes, just feeling like you’re being heard is helpful.
Pride Month: Final Thoughts
Celebrate self-acceptance, diversity, and inclusion this Pride Month and recognize that everyone is on a journey. Now is the time to brush up on your LGBTQ+ history and learn about the issues that the community faces.
While coming out is a personal process and unique experience, it can bring about positive change. Although your life will be different forever, coming out can make you healthier and happier.