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Shining a Light on the Mental Health of the LGBTQ+ Community: Tips to Find the Right Support

Millions of Americans experience symptoms of a mental health condition each year, and the number of people seeking care is trending upward. While a mental health diagnosis may impact an individual’s daily life, it can also have a ripple effect across families, communities.

In respect for LGBTQ+ Health Awareness week, we want to shine a spotlight on a community who are desperately in need of supportive mental health resources, the LGBTQ+ community.

According to a study released in February of 2024 by Forbes Health[1], the mental health statistics in the LGBTQ+ community are staggering[2]:

  • 50.2% of adults who identify as lesbian, gay, or bisexual (LGB) experienced a mental health condition in 2020.
  • LGB adults are more than twice as likely to experience a mental health condition than heterosexual adults.
  • Transgender adults are nearly four times as likely to experience a mental health condition than those who are cisgender.
  • 86% of LGBTQ+ youth reported being harassed or assaulted at school in 2019, which may significantly impact one’s mental health.
  • Only 37% of LGBTQ+ youth identified their home as an identity-affirming space in 2022.
  • Members of the LGBTQ+ community are at a higher risk of experiencing mental health conditions, particularly depression and anxiety.

For many LGBTQ+ people, socioeconomic and cultural conditions negatively impact mental health conditions. Many in the LGBTQ+ community face discrimination, prejudice, denial of civil and human rights, harassment, and family rejection, which can lead to new or worsened symptoms, particularly for those with intersecting racial or socioeconomic identities. Finding supportive resources and support is essential.

There are important considerations when seeking LGBTQ+ focused care. Here are a few steps to find a professional:

Be Specific in Searching for Mental Health Professional

While considering the type of mental health professional you are looking for, it is important to consider the following:

  • If you want a provider who shares specific parts of their identity with you, you may be able to find out if your provider is LGBTQ+ by reading their profiles or websites.
  • It may be easier to find a provider that has a baseline competency in LGBTQ+ issues, rather than one who specializes in LGBTQ+ care. If your mental health conditions are not rooted in sexual orientation and/or gender identity, it may not be necessary for the provider to be specialized in LGBTQ+ issues.
  • If you are transgender and are seeking a mental health professional to write a letter of support for gender affirming medical care or for legal documentation change, you should seek a provider who understands the insurance or legal requirements of support letters.

Always Look for Referrals

Many websites that provide mental health professional directory searches, including insurance company websites, have filters that allow you to show only mental health providers who have a specialty or competency in working with LGBTQ+ patients. Many insurance companies also have information numbers, and they can help find you providers that are in your area, accept your insurance and list LGBTQ+ competency in their profile.

These directories, however, are not the only way to find LGBTQ+ competent providers. Many LGBTQ+ organizations and community groups provide directories that have been vetted by other LGBTQ+ people. You may want to check with:

  • Local LGBTQ+ community centers
  • Local LGBTQ+ health centers
  • LGBTQ+ community groups such as equality groups, health collectives, social organizations, support groups
  • Affirming places of worship

Start With a Phone Call

The first step is always the most difficult for most people, which is making an initial call to a mental health provider. Transgender people may feel uncomfortable talking on the phone due to concerns about being misgendered due to their natural voice range. If you find you’re reluctant to call, ask a friend or family member to call for you.

When making the initial call, you may want to ask the provider then if they have previous experience with LGBTQ+ patients or if they are comfortable working with LGBTQ+ patients. You can wait to ask this during the first appointment, but you may save time and energy by asking from the start.

Ask Questions

Providers welcome questions from their patients or clients, since this helps them better understand what is important in their treatment. In your first visit with a mental health provider, be forthright about the fact that you are looking for an LGBTQ+ competent provider. You should not feel like you need to educate providers about the basic concepts of LGBTQ+ identities. To prevent that, consider asking the following questions:

  • My identity is ______. What experience do you have working with people with that identity?
  • What experience do you have with the LGBTQ+ community?
  • Do you have any specific training or certifications that relate to working with LGBTQ+ clients?

Additionally, to avoid selecting a practitioner that uses the discredited and harmful practice of conversion or reparative therapy — aimed at changing a person’s sexual orientation or gender identity — you may also want to ask, “Do you provide conversion therapy or reparative therapy?” and follow up by asking how they feel about that specific practice to make sure you are not selecting a provider that advocates for this type of treatment.

Begin Building a Relationship

Most likely, it will take several calls to find the right provider. If the provider does not have the knowledge or experience that you are looking for, you can move on to the next provider and keep searching.

Remember, you are seeking a person that is going to help you improve your mental health. By stating your needs and asking the right questions, you can find someone who can mindfully address your identity throughout the duration of your treatment.

While belonging to the LGBTQ+ community can be a source of strength, it also brings unique challenges. Please reach out to your family, loved ones and professionals who will provide the support and love you deserve.

Forbes Health. Mental Health Statistics and Facts.

LGBTQ+. National Alliance on Mental Illness.

Let’s Get to Work, Together

Contact us to learn more about how Horizon Health can help you start a behavioral health program or take an existing program to new heights.