May is known as Mental Health Month, or Mental Health Awareness Month, and it has been observed in the United States since 1949.
Started by Mental Health America (MHA), Mental Health Month exists to raise awareness and educate the public about mental illness, the realities of living with mental illness, and strategies for attaining mental health and wellness. Additionally, the month draws attention to suicide and strives to reduce stigma associated with mental illness.
Every year, Mental Health Month is announced by presidential proclamation; President Joseph R. Biden issued this year’s proclamation on April 30, 2021. Check it out here.
Because the SITREP focuses on LGBTQ+ Veterans, we’ll be sharing information on our socials for both communities. That said, LGBTQ+ people and Veterans each face specific mental health issues. When it comes to LGBTQ+ Veterans, the issues can be the same, quite different, or compounded.
Mental Health Issues for Veterans
According to the VA, mental health issues can cause changes in thinking, feelings, behavior, and physical activity, but it can be difficult to tell if you or a loved one is affected by a mental health condition. Without help, mental health issues have the potential to impact one’s career, family, social interactions, and wellbeing overall.
Below are some signs and symptoms of mental health conditions:
- Feeling very sad or nervous
- Muscle tension and weakness
- Headaches or other physical pain
- Irritability, anger, or “short temper”
- Decrease energy, motivation, or interests
- Problems functioning at home, work, or school
- Problems with attention, concentration, or memory
- Changes in sleep, appetite, weight, or intimate activities
- Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, helplessness, or hopelessness
- Unhealthy behaviors such as misusing drugs, alcohol, food, or excessive spending to deal with stress
Among Veterans, some of of the more common health conditions are anxiety, bipolar disorder, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), and schizophrenia. It is suggested that, if you or a fellow Veteran are experiencing any signs or symptoms, it is important you talk to your primary care or mental health provider. The VA has entire care teams available to help you find the right path of treatment.
It’s also important to know that you are not alone in this. Mental health illness is treatable.
Mental Health Issues for LGBTQ+ People
Recent research has shows that lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) adults are more than twice as likely as heterosexual adults to experience a mental health condition. When it comes to transgender people, they are nearly four times as likely as cisgender people to have a condition.
Overall, LGBTQ+ people are at higher risk for experiencing mental health conditions – especially depression and anxiety disorders.
Another important aspect are factors that are specific to the LGBTQ+ community that pose risks when it comes to mental health. This includes:
- Coming out which can be positive or have negative mental health impacts if not done in supportive environments.
- Rejection of something as personal as one’s identity from family, friends, workplace coworkers, or the faith community.
- Trauma stemming from homophobia, biphobia, transphobia, bullying, and/or identity-based shame. Discrimination is also a factor including labeling, stereotyping, denial of opportunity or access, and verbal/mental/physical abuse; to this, the LGBTQ+ community is one of the most targeted portions of society for hate crimes. In fact, LGBTQ+ people are at higher risk for PTSD because of discrimination.
- Substance misuse or overuse which may be used as coping mechanisms or self-medication.
- Homelessness resulting from family rejection or discrimination based on gender identify or sexual orientation.
- Suicide: The community has a higher risk of suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts. In fact, 40% of transgender adults have attempted suicide in their lifetime, compared to less than 5% of the general U.S. population.
- Inadequate mental health care because providers may lump all LGBTQ+ patients together without regard that there are several groups with varying needs. This may also include harassment and lacking cultural competency.
- American Psychological Association: Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Health
- Association of Gay & Lesbian Psychiatrists
- GLMA: Health Professionals Advancing LGBTQ Equality – Find a Provider
- LGBT National Help Center
- Make the Connection: May is Mental Health Month
- National Alliance on Mental Illness: LGBTQI
- National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE)
- Society for Sexual, Affectional, Intersex, and Gender Expansive Identities (SAIGE)
- The Trevor Project
- VA Health Care: Mental Health Awareness Month