June is international recognised as Pride Month, the month every year for LGBQTIA+ people to celebrate their authentic selves, but also a time that all need to reflect on reflect on what more they can do for the community and carry that through all year round.
This months episode of the Let’s Talk Mate podcast hosted a conversation around the things that affect LGBTQIA+ peoples mental health, as well as how members of the community find accessing mental health services.
Regular host of the podcast Sam, Solent Mind’s Digital Content Officer, was joined by two other members of Solent Mind staff who identify as LGBTQIA+; Jo Carson, Senior Peer Worker, and Phil Vickers, a Wellbeing Advisor from Positive Minds.
They were also joined from Maximillian Mustafa-Holzapfel, who works for Beyond Reflections, a charity supporting trans+ people and their families. They do this through information resources, a variety of support, as well as workplace training.
Mental health and being LGBQTIA+
While mental health can affect anyone, people who identify as LGBTQIA+ have been shown to be more likely to develop problems such as; Low self esteem, depression, anxiety/social anxiety, self harm and suicidal feelings.
This often isn’t directly due to being LGBQTIA+, but instead to the treatment surrounding that, as Jo explained: “I think it is a really dangerous view that, trying to explain to people that people in this community are more likely to experience a mental health problem, that can be taken from negatively of: Oh well, of course, because ALL these things are related to mental health problems.
“Then you’re stuck trying to explain to people that the mental health problems are because of stigma, because of bully and all these other circumstances.”
Maximillian added: “The people who come through [Beyond Reflections] who just want a little bit of support while transitioning but actually have acceptance from their family are some of the most well adjusted people I’ve met.
“The people who are doing badly with their mental health are the ones that feel rejected and feel that people don’t get it.”
Representation can go a long way in helping people feel accepted, which is why Pride Month and various other awareness periods throughout the year are so crucial.
Sam, who touched on this during last months social media episode, said: “Social media more or less, saved my life, because I could see myself represented and I could see people like me and I could talk to people like that. Those things that I couldn’t see in my local area.”
With that in mind, Phil gave an insight to a time of growing up as LGBTQIA+ without social media and representation: “So I’m a little older, I’m in my 50s, I’m from a generation where we didn’t have social media and we didn’t have representation. The first ever gay kiss on Eastenders was all over the place as being scandalous.
“There was no role models to look out to, there was no one to look up to. I am pleased for the progress that has been made, but enough progress still hasn’t been made.”
Accessing mental health services
LGBTQIA+ people are not only more likely to suffer with poor mental health, they are also less likely to access services.
Sam led on some of the things that might play into this: “For me personally, there is always a certain amount of anxiety when I’m going somewhere that isn’t explicitly a LGBTQIA+ space. That isn’t just mental health services that is; Going to Uni, starting a new work, going to a new pub for the first time.
“That then obviously comes with mental health services, and then with every new therapist, I’m basically thinking ‘what if I’m saying this about being bi and they take it in THAT direction’ as we said right at the start. Rather than the effects around you being why you are mentally ill or have poor mental that, this IS the mental health problem.”
Maximillian then jumped in and said: “The first thing that sprung to mind when you were talking just then was if you have someone who doesn’t understand that, especially when you are going to a free service where you only have 6 sessions or 12 sessions, you are using up some of that time educating your counsellor or the person who is supporting you in how your life is in a way other people don’t have to.
“You don’t have to explain being straight and what that means for your mental health before you can get into counselling. My other job is I work as a counsellor in private practice, and one of the main things that I get is ‘oh you’re openly queer, so I don’t have to explain x y z’.”
“The T gets dropped more often than we’d like to admit.”
Throughout the conversation, the need for the needs of trans and gender non-conforming people to be specifically highlighted became obvious.
Earlier this year, plans to ban conversion therapy were brought forward, but that this ban would not include the equivalent for trans people. Jo spoke about their feelings on this: “I was reading about it the other day, and its that ‘othering’, it is just another example of that separation. I’m really upset by it and I know a lot of other people are too.”
In later conversations surrounding reaching out to services, Sam mentioned that to trans and non-binary people some of those anxieties might even exist when approaching LGBQTIA+ spaces, which Maximillian agreed with: “Absolutely. The T gets dropped more often then we’d like to admit as a society.
“The amount of our members I support with writing letters to their GP, for example people just asking for a referral to the gender identity clinic, it should be as simple as send off the referral when someone says they might be trans. That can always not be actioned at a later date if that turns out not to be a thing for them.
“You’re looking at 5+ years for a waiting list and we have GPs who will delay that even further by sending people to mental health services, or to us [Beyond Reflections] first.”
Sam interjected with: “And that can be the difference between life and death in some cases.”
Maximillian continued saying: “Absolutely. The gender clinic should be the first thing you do as a GP when a person expresses this to you, by all means come to us while you are on the waiting list or seek other mental heath support, or while you’re waiting to see your GP.”
Please make sure to check out the full podcast here:
The description of the video will contain services that you can reach out to if you are affected by anything discussed, including Beyond Reflections who you can find information for here: https://linktr.ee/beyondreflec...
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