The majority of LGBTQI+ people have and maintain high mental health. Yet, research shows that being part of a minority means you are at greater risk for low mental health. This is known as minority stress and is true for any minority groups. Being aware of vulnerabilities can help us understand our feelings better. It also allows us to take steps to help ourselves through. We have a list of supports at the bottom of the page. By contacting any of them, we can begin the process of helping ourselves. The following are some vulnerabilities that can affect LGBTQI+ people.
Sharing our True Self with Others
Some of us still feel the need to protect ourselves from harm, and we choose to not to share our sexual orientation or gender identity with others. Not being able to be our true selves can add to the stress of everyday life. This in turn can affect both our mental and physical health.
Lack of support from family or friends
Some LGBTQI+ people can experience a lack of support from family and friends. This may happen when we first come out (share your true self with them), when we get into a relationship, or start a family.This can be hurtful and harmful to our mental health. Sometimes families, in particular parents, don’t know how to support LGBTQI+ family members. Some may need some support themselves. Information and supports are available for LGBTQI+ people and their parents.
Negative Feelings about ourselves
Years of exposure to myths, stereotypes and societal attitude has forced many LGBTQI+ people to internalise this negativity. Some of us may believe that these myths, stereotypes, and homophobic rhetoric are true. Internalised homophobia, transphobia or biphobia can worsen general stress. This in turn can lead to lower physical and mental health.
Our Body Image/Femininity/Masculinity
GBQI+ culture, or the ‘scene’, can be disproportionally focused on looks, masculinity and status. Many of us might not fit neatly into various labels or norms. Everyone is different and unique, there is no ‘normal’. However, some of us may suffer ‘stigma’ from some of our peers and society at large simply for being our true selves. Some may feel there is a pressure to be masculine, leading many GBQI+ men to feel frustrated and stressed. We are all beautiful beings with unique qualities that make us special and lovable. Recognising this in ourself is a good step to finding positive self-regard.
Combatting racism in all its forms is important for our whole society. A person of colour or from an ethnic minority may face additional challenges. As a person of colour or coming from an ethnic minority we may feel marginalised, stereotyped, excluded or fetishised. This can in turn affect our mental health and wellbeing. If you have experienced racism, check out this Responding to Racism Guide from the Irish Network Against Racism.
Our HIV Status
The outlook for people living with HIV has improved over the years. It is now a medically manageable condition. When we are on effective treatment our HIV becomes “Undetectable” and it cannot transmit itself to others. Yet, high levels of stigma remain, and this can have a negative effect on mental health. We are working to end this stigma in Ireland and we are here to support you.
Most of us experience loneliness at some point in our lives. It might be because we spend more time by ourselves than we want, or because we are disconnecting from the people around us. Often when we are struggling with isolation, we retreat more. This is likely to make the loneliness and isolation worse. If isolation is a concern, check out the help and supports at the bottom of the page. There is help out there.
Harassment and Bullying
Anyone can be bullied. But LGBTQI+ people can also experience homophobic or transphobic bullying. This is targeted bullying because of sexual orientation or gender expression and is legally harassment. It can happen anywhere, such as the classroom, online, the workplace, sporting field, or in the home.
Being bullied may lead you to feel upset, threatened, humiliated or vulnerable. Bullying and harassment can cause physical, mental and social pain. This can make us feel alone, scared, angry, confused or sad. All these can affect our mental health. Bullying is unacceptable. Professional help and advice is available. See the help and supports at bottom of page.
Our mental health and sexual health are connected. Sexuality is a vital part of our lives and enjoying sex is recognised as an important part of maintaining mental and physical health. We all have very different types of relationships with sex, both in person and virtually. Our relationship with sex can also differ at certain points in our life. If we enjoy who we are and how we express our sexuality, it can increase our mental health. If we become concerned about how we feel and think about sex, it can lower our mental health. If this happens, there is a peer sexual health outreach worker at MPOWER who is there to listen and help. MPOWER is a relaxed and friendly service for gay and bisexual men, men who have sex with men and trans people. At MPOWER we can get support and resources relating to HIV, STIs and sexual health & wellbeing.
Drugs & Alcohol
Studies in Ireland, and internationally, have shown higher levels of alcohol misuse among the LGBTQI+ community. Drinking or taking drugs can be done for many reasons. Sometimes it can lower our physical and mental health and make everyday life a bit more of a struggle. Knowing how alcohol and drugs affect us, and learning more about these substances can help keep us safe. When we find we are taking more than we would like, or when and how we use drugs and alcohol is becoming a problem in our lives, we need to think about getting help. We should not be afraid to reach out. There is no judgement from support services, they are there to help us. Check out our guidelines around drugs and alcohol keep safe.
Sometimes relationships can be a source of pressure. This can put a strain on our mental health. When we begin a relationship with a new partner, we need to remember to keep working on our existing friendships and family relationships as well.
Relationship break-ups can have a powerful impact on our mental health. It can bring a sense of empowerment and relief or uncertainty for the future, anger, sadness, a sense of failure, loneliness and isolation. Talking to someone we can trust at this time can help us to process these emotions. We could speak to a family member, friend, or find a professional for support and advice. Supports at bottom of page.