Mental health among LGBT people

November 12, 2018

Research from Stonewall, Britain’s leading charity for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) equality, has exposed the levels of poor mental health among LGBT people compared to the general population.

Stonewall’s study also reveals a high level of hostility and unfair treatment faced by many LGBT people when accessing healthcare services.

The research, based on YouGov polling of over 5,000 LGBT people, shows more than half of LGBT people (52%) have experienced depression in the last year, and three in five (61%) had anxiety. This compares to one in six adults in England who faced a common mental health issue, such as anxiety and depression, according to Mind.

Experiences of anti-LGBT abuse and discrimination on the street, at home, and at work were also revealed to significantly increase the risk of poor mental health. Two-thirds of LGBT people who had been the victim of a hate crime (69%) experienced depression, while three in four (76%) reported having episodes of anxiety.

The situation is particularly concerning for transgender people, says Stonewall. In the last 12 months, more than one in 10 transgender people (12%) attempted to take their own life, compared to 2% of LGB people who aren’t transgender. Almost half of transgender people (46%) have also had thoughts about taking their own life.

Almost one in four patients (23%) had witnessed negative remarks about LGBT people from healthcare staff while accessing services. One in seven LGBT people (14%) said they have avoided treatment altogether for fear of the discrimination they may face.

Of those who do seek support, one in eight (13%) have experienced some form of unequal treatment from healthcare staff because they’re LGBT. A quarter of LGBT people also faced a lack of understanding of their specific health needs; a figure that rises to 62% for transgender patients.

On the basis of this report, Stonewall is calling for better training for all health and social care staff, with specific guidance on how to meet the needs of LGBT patients. IT is also suggesting NHS England should also make mental health a key priority for the new National LGBT Health Adviser.

Paul Twocock, Director of Campaigns, Policy and Research at Stonewall, said, ‘Simply being lesbian, gay, bi or trans shouldn’t mean you’re at higher risk of experiencing poorer mental health or should have to expect unequal treatment from healthcare services in Britain today. Unfortunately, this report shows that for many, it still does.

‘Despite some outstanding progress by committed individuals and institutions, we are still seeing a bleak picture of LGBT health – both mental and physical – in 2018. Half of LGBT people (52%) have experienced depression, while three in five (61%) reported having episodes of anxiety.

‘And it’s no wonder this is the case: LGBT people still face routine discrimination in all areas of their lives. The Government’s annual hate crime report revealed a 32% rise in anti-trans hate crimes in the last year, while those based on sexual orientation jumped by 27%. What this new research shows is the devastating impact hate and abuse has on LGBT people’s mental health and wellbeing. Victims of anti-LGBT hate crime are at far greater risk of experiencing mental health problems compared to other LGBT people and the wider population.

‘We need the UK, Scottish and Welsh Governments and the NHS to take action and ensure health service staff at all levels understand the needs of all LGBT people and how to support them. The £1m fund announced by the UK Government to improve health and social care for LGBT people in England is an important first step. We look forward to working with the UK Government’s newly appointed National Adviser for LGBT healthcare in England, and alongside NHS Wales. In Scotland, we look forward to continuing our ongoing partnership with NHS Scotland. Across Britain, we want to help create a world where every LGBT person is supported to a lead a happy, healthy life.’

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