In 2018, Stonewall reported that 55% of lesbian and bisexual women and 65% of trans women had experienced depression in the last year. Poor mental health is notably higher among LGBT communities compared to the general population. But why is this the case?
Minority stress describes chronically high levels of stress faced by members of a stigmatized minority groups. In 2018, the Government Equalities Office reported that 68% of LGBT people didn’t feel safe holding hands with a same gender partner for fear of a negative reaction from others. One survey respondent commented:
“I still wouldn’t walk down my street holding hands for fear of attack, or kiss on public transport. Simple things that heterosexual people take for granted.”
While LGBT people aren’t the only ones who experience minority stress, there is a wealth of research outlining the links between minority stress, poor mental health and unhealthy coping mechanisms. LGBT people with multiple protected characteristics e.g. BAME, disabled or a person of faith are likely to have poorer mental health as a result of intersecting forms of discrimination.
Research suggests that bisexual women are at risk of dual discrimination because they may be unable to access LGBT friendly spaces in addition or mainstream community spaces. In 2018, Stonewall found that 27% of bisexual women experienced discrimination or poor treatment from others in their local LGBT community because of their sexual orientation, compared to only 9% of lesbian women.
“Being bisexual means finding yourself excluded by gay people and straight people in social settings. I only tell my friends about my sexuality, meaning it is hidden from my family and my work colleagues. Bisexuality is a hidden sexuality through people’s lack of acceptance.”
For further support and to connect with other bisexual people, visit our Bi Programme page here.
While there is limited research into the mental health of trans women specifically, there is evidence that trans people experience higher rates of mental health problems.This may be manifest in feelings of inadequacy, suicide ideation or depression. Internalised transphobia, having to hide your trans status or having your gender pathologised as a way of explaining your mental health problems can increase the likelihood and intensity of poor mental health.
If you’re struggling with your mental health, connecting with other trans people can be incredibly helpful. For more information, visit our Trans Programme page here.
Common coping mechanisms
Everyone manages their mental health differently. However, research highlights a number of common coping mechanisms among LBT women. Some of these include:
- Excessive exercise or controlling eating habits
- Substance use
- Drinking including binge drinking
- Avoiding social situations
Do any of these sound familiar? How do you manage and strengthen your mental health?
Ways to improve your mental health
- Stay connected with other LBT women - this could be via meet-ups, regular social groups or online forums
- Get creative – making something can give you a sense of purpose and achievement. It doesn’t have to be anything big and it doesn’t have to be perfect. It could even be as simple as baking a cake!
- Do something that affirms your identity – this could be wearing a rainbow scarf, reading queer literature or something else entirely
- Practice mindfulness – this is a great way of being present, recognising what you have control over and not dwelling on things you cannot change
- Get active – there are loads of ways to do this whether that’s YouTube work-outs in your living room or joining a roller derby team. Doing something that strengthens your physical body can help you to feel stronger and more resilient mentally
- Talk to someone – this could be a close friend, your partner or a helpline like Switchboard LGBT+ or LGBT Foundation’s own helpline
If you’re looking for unique ways to improve your mental health, some useful resources for improving your mental health and can be found on our Wellbeing Hub.
If you live in Greater Manchester, you may be eligible for our Talking Therapies. For more information, click here.