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Coping with LGBTQ+ Discrimination and Stigma: Strategies for Mental Health and Wellbeing

Updated: Jan 10


Women with LGBTQ+ flag


Recognising the Impact of Discrimination and Stigma


Discrimination and stigma can significantly impact mental health and wellbeing, especially for LGBTQ+ individuals. Research shows that experiences of discrimination and stigma can lead to higher levels of stress, anxiety, depression, and suicide ideation (Kota, et al., 2020). Studies conducted by Stonewall highlighted a 5% rise in discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community from 2013 to 2018 (Stonewall, 2018). Other studies by Stonewall signal the prevalence of discrimination and stigma, with one study finding that one in five people who identify as LGBTQ+ in the UK experienced a hate crime or incident in the previous 12 months (Stonewall, 2017). Additionally, the study found that within schools, nearly half (45%) had experienced bullying, harassment or discrimination because of their sexual orientation or gender identity. This significantly impacted their mental health, with 64% saying that they had self-harmed and 40% saying that they had considered suicide (Stonewall, 2017).


The impacts of discrimination and stigma can also extend beyond mental health. Studies have found that LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to experience physical health issues, such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, due to the stress of discrimination and stigma (Lick, et al., 2013). In the UK, LGBTQ+ individuals are more likely to smoke and drink heavily compared to heterosexual individuals (Greenwood & Gruskin, 2007), which can have negative impacts on physical health. Discrimination and stigma can also impact educational and work opportunities, which can lead to financial stress and lower economic mobility. In a survey conducted by the LGBTQ+ charity Stonewall, one in five LGBTQ+ individuals experienced discrimination when applying for a job because of their sexual orientation or gender identity (Stonewall, 2017).


Recognising the negative impact of discrimination and stigma is important in coping with its effects. By acknowledging the emotional and physical toll of discrimination and stigma, LGBTQ+ individuals can begin to take steps to address its impact on their mental health and wellbeing.


Finding Support


Finding support is one of the most important coping strategies for dealing with discrimination and stigma. This may involve talking to friends, family members, or a mental health professional who can offer understanding and validation. Support groups can also be a helpful resource for LGBTQ+ individuals looking to connect with others who have experienced similar challenges.


Practising Self-Care


Self-care is an essential part of coping with discrimination and stigma. It can involve engaging in activities that promote relaxation, stress reduction, and emotional regulation. Some examples of self-care activities include:


Exercise: Physical activity has been shown to improve mood and reduce stress levels. Regular exercise, such as jogging, yoga, or swimming, can help reduce the impact of discrimination and stigma on mental health and wellbeing. Additionally, exercise has been shown to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease and some types of cancer.


Mindfulness and meditation: Mindfulness and meditation practices have been shown to reduce anxiety and stress levels. Daily mindfulness or meditation practices can help LGBTQ+ individuals cope with the negative impact of discrimination and stigma. Additionally, mindfulness practices have improved immune system function and reduced the risk of some chronic illnesses.


Creative expression: Engaging in creative activities, such as painting, writing, or music, can be a helpful way to cope with the stress of discrimination and stigma. Creative expression can provide an outlet for emotions and help individuals feel a sense of control and agency.


Social connection: Social support is a key component of mental health and wellbeing. Engaging in activities with friends and family, such as having a meal together or attending a movie, can help reduce the negative impact of discrimination and stigma on mental health. Additionally, social support has been shown to improve physical health outcomes, such as reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.


It's important to note that self-care is not a one-size-fits-all solution. What works for one person may not work for another. It's important for LGBTQ+ individuals to experiment with different self-care activities to find what works best for them.


Advocating for Change


Another way to cope with discrimination and stigma is to advocate for change. This may involve participating in activism or advocacy efforts to address issues related to LGBTQ+ discrimination and stigma. It may also involve educating others about the harmful effects of discrimination and stigma and working to create more inclusive and accepting environments for LGBTQ+ individuals. Research has shown that activism and advocacy efforts can positively impact mental health outcomes for LGBTQ+ individuals.


Seeking Professional Support


For LGBTQ+ individuals who are struggling with the effects of discrimination and stigma, seeking professional support can be a helpful option. A mental health professional can provide guidance and support in managing the emotional and physical effects of discrimination and stigma. They can also offer strategies for building resilience and developing coping skills. Studies have shown that LGBTQ+ individuals who receive mental health treatment have better mental health outcomes than those who do not receive treatment (McDonald, 2018).


At bMindful Psychology, we understand that each child and family have unique needs, and we are committed to delivering personalised services that support their wellbeing. Our flexible structure allows us to offer tailored support and high-quality therapeutic care. We work hand-in-hand with parents and caregivers, providing them with the tools, resources, and guidance they need to support their child through the challenges of LGBTQ+ discrimination. Together, we aim to create a nurturing and inclusive environment where children, regardless of their sexual orientation or gender identity, can thrive and reach their full potential.


In conclusion, coping with discrimination and stigma can be a challenging experience for LGBTQ+ individuals, but there are strategies that can help. By recognising the impact of discrimination and stigma, finding support, practising self-care, advocating for change, and seeking professional support, LGBTQ+ individuals can manage the effects of discrimination and stigma and promote their mental health and wellbeing. As we work to create a more inclusive and accepting society, it is essential that we support the mental health and wellbeing of LGBTQ+ individuals.


References


Greenwood, G. & Gruskin, E., 2007. The health of sexual minorities: Public health perspectives on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender populations. The health of sexual minorities: Public health perspectives on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender populations, pp. 566-583.

Kota, K. et al., 2020. Psychosocial mediators of perceived stigma and suicidal ideation among transgender women. BMC public health, Volume 20, pp. 1-10.

Lick, D., Durso, L. & Johnson, K., 2013. Minority stress and physical health among sexual minorities. Perspectives on Psychological Science, 8(5), pp. 521-548.

McDonald, K., 2018. Social support and mental health in LGBTQ adolescents: A review of the literature. Issues in mental health nursing, 39(1), pp. 16-29.

Stonewall, 2017. LGBT in Britain - Hate Crime and Discrimination. [Online] Available at: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/system/files/lgbt_in_britain_hate_crime.pdf

Stonewall, 2018. LGBT in Britain - Work Report. [Online] Available at: https://www.stonewall.org.uk/system/files/lgbt_in_britain_work_report.pdf




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