Written by: Kirstin Schafer, Psy.D., Angela Derrick, Ph.D. & Susan McClanahan, Ph.D.
In recognition of Pride month and to further understand the current mental health needs of the LGBTQ+ community, SpringSource staff discussed themes being raised by our LBGTQ+ clients in therapy.
The main concern that we have heard from our LGBTQ clients surrounds the significant increase in discrimination against the community through recent anti-trans legislation and anti-LGBTQ+ bills. For instance, we have had several clients process the implications of overturning Roe v Wade and how this reversal could potentially impact other federally protected rights of minorities, such as same-sex marriage.
Similarly, our clients have been concerned about how anti-LGBTQ+ legislation denies trans folks trans-affirming health care, limits sports participation, and reduces representation in classrooms. These bills, such as the recent “Don’t Say Gay” bill in Florida, can increase stigma, shame, and secrecy among those who may have questions about their identity, and we know these factors are damaging for one’s mental health and well-being.
Further, the consequences of greater discrimination mean increased hardship for those in the community and their loves ones, including significant mental health concerns such as anxiety, depression, eating disorders, substance use, and greater risk for suicide.
The Trevor Project is an organization that aims to prevent suicide and provide crisis intervention for LGBTQ+ youth. According to their 2021 National Survey, “42% of LGBTQ+ youth have seriously considered attempting suicide in the last year. And for transgender and non-binary youth, that number increased to 52%.” The Trevor Project’s research further indicates that when LGBTQ+ youth are given access to gender affirming places, or spaces in which discussion about their gender identity and sexual orientation is welcomed, they report less suicide attempts.
As Psychologists, we understand the traumatic implications for individuals whose identity is denied, challenged, and invalidated. We believe in the power of supportive communities, such as affirming therapeutic spaces, to help combat the harmful societal messaging.
Another common theme we are hearing in therapy with our LGBTQ+ clients and with folks exploring their sexual identity is difficulty accessing and/or navigating inclusive spaces. This may be even more relevant with the increased policies and legislation that exacerbate the exclusion of LGBTQ+ folks in society.
Safe and inclusive spaces for LGBTQ+ people are vital to their overall well-being. Inclusive spaces provide folks with the opportunity to explore and develop their sexual and/or gender identities, escape heterosexism and cisgenderism, and develop a sense of community. While these spaces are important for LGBTQ+ mental health, they can be unsafe for folks who hold multiple marginalized identities by implicitly upholding systems of oppression.
Therefore, it is important that inclusive spaces focus on intersectionality and strive to examine and dismantle the social structures within these spaces that contribute to diverse LGBTQ+ people’s marginalization. At SpringSource, we believe there is a need for more inclusive spaces to support the mental health of LGBTQ+ individuals.
The Brave Space Alliance offers free support groups for folks interested in exploring inclusive spaces that prioritize BIPOC transgender and gender-nonconforming (TGNC) individuals. In Chicago, the Center on Halstead is a great resource for events and programs designed for specific communities within the LGBTQ+ family. Additionally, SpringSource can be a resource for those seeking LGBTQ+ affirming therapy.