Mental health issues are especially common for those who identify as LGBTQIA+. Aside from accepting oneself, problems faced by individuals in this community such as coming out, bullying and discrimination may make mental health issues even more likely to occur.
Coming out is a scary thing to do for a lot of people in the LGBTQIA+ community. Whether it’s parents, friends, colleagues, whether you’ve come out to lots of people, or it is your first time revealing who you are to the world, it is a daunting thing to do.
There are a few things surrounding coming out that could affect your mental health including:
Fear of rejection
It is completely normal to be worried about not being accepted or being rejected by people when ‘coming out’, even if you know the person will be perfectly fine with it. It’s a personal part of you, so if you aren’t ready, don’t feel pressured. If you are scared to come out to family members, try coming out to friends or someone you know will be supportive and loving, or even practice in the mirror!
Not ready to come out yet?
It is okay if you are not ready to come out to anyone- it takes time! Feelings of shame and guilt surrounding your sexuality can also be difficult to deal with. If you are having trouble discovering your sexuality and it is causing you some distress, it might help to talk to someone- this could be a family member, a friend or even a stranger e.g. a trained peer support worker like me, who can listen to you and support you without judgement.
It can also get tedious feeling the need to come out to everyone you meet, I know I feel this way sometimes. Just know, you can choose who to come out to, and whether it is even necessary to come out at all. It is your choice, and don’t ever feel like you have to disclose any information about yourself to anyone you are not comfortable in doing so.
Bullying in any form is wrong, and it is likely that if you are a young person part of the LGBTQIA+ community, you have experienced bullying. This can negatively affect your mental health.
In an educational setting
Bullying due to sexual orientation is discrimination, which is illegal in the UK. If you are being bullied in school, tell a trusted teacher or parent of the situation, and try your best to ignore the bully. In some cases this is easier said than done, but it is always best to tell someone and not go through it alone, as you never know how someone might be able to help you.
School can be the prime setting for bullies, however, when you leave school and go to college or university, it is highly likely you will find peers with similar interests, and find that bullying is a thing of the past. It was at college that I found amazing and supportive friends that accepted me for who I am, and didn’t judge me because of the gender I am attracted to.
Cyberbullying is arguably more serious than face-to-face bullying in the UK. If you are being cyberbullied through your personal mobile device, it may seem like there is no escape. Make sure you save any hateful messages and show someone- either a parent, a teacher at school or even the police. Try and block whoever is sending you these messages, and maybe take some time away from your device, or whichever platform these messages are coming from.
Discrimination is against the law in the UK, however it still happens in various settings and can have a very negative impact on your mental health.
It can be really scary if you feel threatened by someone or you feel you have been discriminated against due to something you cannot control, something that is a part of you. It can make you feel like you don’t belong and can upset you and stop you from doing things.
If you think you have been discriminated against, don’t stay quiet! If an incident happens, make sure you tell someone, and try to document what has happened. If you are comfortable, you can also report a hate crime online through this website that will then be sent to your local police force: https://www.report-it.org.uk/
I once had to do this when I was heckled by a grown man for giving my partner a kiss in public. It made me scared and not want to show any affection toward her, however I soon realised, my sexuality is their issue, not mine. Ignore the person and don’t let their words get to you. Remember you are valid, and their hate can’t stop you from being who you are.