A study of more than 7,000 adults living in the United Kingdom found that those who identify as gay, lesbian and bisexual are more likely to experience a variety of mental health problems than are their heterosexual peers. The study didn’t measure how many of these individuals sought counseling or therapy for their needs, but non-heterosexual participants self-reported higher rates of depression, self-harm, suicidal thoughts, anxiety, alcohol and drug dependence, phobia, and obsessive-compulsive disorder. In addition, non-heterosexual participants had experienced higher rates of discrimination throughout their lives.
This study confirms earlier research done in the UK, Holland and the United States that found LGBT people in greater need of counseling because of their social and familial experiences. The discrimination component also links this study with previous research of other minority groups. Last year, researchers at Drexel University College of Medicine found higher rates of depression among people who had faced discrimination due to their membership in an ethnic minority group. Finally, the trends in depression and suicidal ideation documented in non-heterosexual people mirrors all too many news stories that have arisen in the past year.
Increased suicide rates among LGBT individuals, especially teens, is not a new phenomenon, but has now gained considerable mainstream attention. As such, reducing teen suicide and adolescent bullying have been two key areas of focus for schools, community health organizations, and numerous parent groups. Federal grants have been given to programs aiming at increasing awareness of bullying and providing counseling and therapy to those who have been victimized—psychologically, emotionally, or physically—by their peers. This most recent survey of UK adults documents the long-term impacts that can result from harassment. However, the harmful consequences of harassment can be largely mitigated by social support, familial support, and counseling. The more that the consequences of discrimination and harassment are documented through peer-reviewed studies, the more funding and support will be available to meet these needs.
© Copyright 2011 by By Noah Rubinstein, LMFT, LMHC, therapist in Olympia, Washington. All Rights Reserved. Permission to publish granted to GoodTherapy.org.
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