The pandemic situation has ramped up stress levels around the world. This has affected every sector of society, including the LGBTQ community. For a group that is already three times more likely to experience mental health conditions than the rest of society, this makes it an especially challenging time for LGBTQ people. In this article, we present six tips to help LGBTQ people stay mentally strong in these troubling times.
LGBTQ Community Mental Health
The first step toward confronting a problem is to acknowledge its existence. Mental health issues in the LGBTQ community, including self harm, are risks. When people in the general community become aware of the prevalence of mental health issues in the LGBTQ community, they will be more open to offering support. So, here are some sobering statistics:
- LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide, experience suicidal thoughts, and engage in self-harm as compared to youth that are straight.
- 38-65% of transgender individuals experience suicidal ideation.
- An estimated 20-30% of LQBTQ individuals participate in substance abuse compared with 9% of the general population.
LGBTQ individuals are two and a half times more likely to experience depression, anxiety, and substance misuse.
Positive Self Talk
We talk to ourselves all day long. For the average person, more than half of that inner dialogue is negative. LQBTQ individuals, however, have a much higher level of self condemnatory inner dialogue, making it harder to stay positive. In fact, this can destroy self confidence, motivation, and happiness. But you do not have to be a slave to negative self talk. Here is how to convert negative into positive self talk:
Don’t just allow your thoughts to run away with you. Pull yourself up and challenge that negativity. Identify that it has no foundation and refuse to allow it to hang around. Kick it out and replace it with its opposite. So, if you have a thought that you are a loser, slam on the brakes and identify that there is no validity to that statement. Immediately replace that thought with a positive reinforcement statement, such as “Í am a kind, loving individual.” Meditation can be a great tool for individuals in the LGBTQ community to help you check in with yourself and recenter.
Reframe Rour Reality
Actively work to stop viewing everything through a negative lens. As an example, when you aren’t able to get a job done, rather than thinking that you’re lazy and hopeless, tell yourself that you didn’t manage to fit it into your schedule this time but you’ll re-examine your priorities and get it done tomorrow.
Be Kind to Yourself
Do not say anything to yourself that you wouldn’t say to another person. Be kind to yourself in every way, including the way you communicate with yourself.
Keep a Gratitude Journal
Write down five to six things about yourself that you are thankful for in particular. Keep these with you and pull them out regularly throughout the day. Reading through them will soon help to counter the natural tendency toward negative self talk.
Self-acceptance is a major challenge for LGBTQ individuals. Yet, it must be remembered that self-acceptance is key to developing good mental health and well-being. Here are four steps to an overall improved sense of self-acceptance:
- Educate yourself about the richness of the human family. It is important to realize that there is no such thing as normal, and yet this has not stopped people of all backgrounds and sexual orientations from accepting each other. Your gender orientation or sexual preference does not define you. It is just one facet of the incredible human being that you are. Learning more about LGBTQ issues will also help you to accept yourself because you will realize that you are not alone in feeling different.
- Challenge prejudice. You do not have to put up with hurtful comments, slurs, or jokes. Stand up proudly for the person that you are without reservation or apology.
- Identify role models in the LGBTQ community. Today there are more people in public life than ever before who have spoken out about their own experiences and challenges that they have had to overcome. Learning about them and how they have come to a place of positive self-acceptance can help you if you are struggling.
- Come out on your own terms. Don’t let others force you into it; do it when you feel that you have reached a healthy level of self-acceptance.
Sense of Belonging in the LGBTQ Community and in Life
As humans, we have a need to belong. When we have a sense that we belong to a group, we feel safe, accepted, and whole. You need to develop that sense of belonging within your own community. Building a sense of belonging, though, requires some effort on your part. Look for the things that you have in common with others, rather than the things that are different.
Look for opportunities to be with others, both in and out of the LGBTQ community. Without a doubt, this may require stepping out of your comfort zone and putting yourself in unfamiliar situations. But this is part of experiencing the rich life that you deserve. So, even if it is a little scary, put yourself out there. Then, when you are with others, try not to be judgmental about them.
Having established those relationships, make the effort to stay connected.
Reconnect with Family
The vast majority of us come from homes that are loving and supportive, no matter what. Your family is very likely keenly interested in your well-being above all. Don’t distance yourself from them. On the contrary, do your best to strengthen the bonds of support. Don’t be afraid to lean on them for help. They love you and want the best for you.
Embrace Your LGBTQ Identity and Community
During this Pride Month, millions of LGBTQ people around the globe are expressing their love and acceptance of self, despite the challenging environment, we find ourselves in. Use the tips that we’ve provided here to develop your inner pride. Then let that self-love and acceptance reveal the inner beauty of who you are to the world at large as you give back to the LGBTQ community.