For many people who are LGBTQ and living with a mental health condition, finding support and resources that are specific and inclusive can be difficult. Currently, NAMI-DAC is establishing a pilot program for a national initiative currently titled NAMI Rainbow. In Dona Ana County we are focused on addressing the intersection of mental health and issues specific to the Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer (LGBTQ) community.
Numerous studies have shown that LGBTQ individuals living with a mental health condition are significantly impacted, compared to their heterosexual counterparts. This unique intersection is not limited to compounded societal and interpersonal stigma and challenges that is connected with being LGBTQ.
LGBTQ individuals are almost 3 times more likely than others to experience a mental health condition such as major depression or generalized anxiety disorder. This fear of coming out and being discriminated against for sexual orientation and gender identities, can lead to depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, thoughts of suicide and substance abuse. In New Mexico, 32% of lesbian, gay, and bisexual youth have attempted suicide – a higher rate than of heterosexual youth (8%). Additionally, between 38-65% of transgender individuals experience suicidal ideation. Recent national studies also found that sexual minorities had between 1.6 and 3.9 times greater risk of probable PTSD than heterosexuals.
The history of mental health treatment of LGBTQ people is an uneasy one. In a time where homosexuality is no longer understood to be a mental illness, there is still significant room for progress. Everyday LGBTQ people continue to deal with challenges of stigma and bias based on their sexual orientation or gender identity while at the same time also dealing with the societal bias against mental health conditions.
These challenges make it difficult for some LGBTQ people to disclose that they are LGBTQ for fear of being harassed or ridiculed by mental health providers. Many LGBTQ people also go as far as not disclosing mental health conditions to their LGBTQ friends.
As part of our mission to educate, advocate, and listen to the needs of our community in regards to Mental Health, NAMI-DAC is partnering with LGBTQ individuals and advocacy groups to ensure that NAMI is inclusive in its work and to address gaps in services and resources available to those living with mental health conditions, as well as connecting people to an LGBTQ friendly support network and local community resources.