Managing Your Mental & Emotional Health as a minority/LGBTQ+ 🏳️🌈
As we enter into Pride Month — and to further highlight the need to protect minority and marginalised communities’ mental/emotional health — I wanted to share an article I wrote a couple of weeks ago for Nonchalant Magazine, the UK’s top publication for Queer Women and Allies:
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The theme for this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week was kindness.
Although we have seen incredible examples of collective responsibility throughout the country during this pandemic, neighbourhoods and cities coming together, protecting those that are most at risk, ongoing celebrations and recognition of those on the frontline… There has also been a marked increase in LGBTQ+ mental health helpline calls since the start of the COVID crisis.
Whether you are isolating with homophobic parents, have a previous mental health condition that has been exacerbated by loneliness and anxiety. Or — the classic — you have hastily U-hauled with a new Tinder date and it is not going that well…There are challenges particular to the queer community that must not be ignored.
In fact, it is about time that we not only recognise and raise awareness that they exist but demystify and destigmatise them, so we can more effectively address them.
It is a known fact that LGBTQ+ individuals have historically reported higher rates of anxiety, depression, eating disorders and alcohol and substance misuse than our straight counterparts. Whether you have a lived experience of it or not, or know someone who has, you must be aware of the unique psychosocial elements that pervade our community. In fact, there is a name for that — minority stress theory.
Minority Stress Theory
It states that “sexual minorities experience distinct, chronic stressors related to their typically stigmatised identities which — in addition to every day or universal stressors — disproportionately compromise their mental health and wellbeing” ( Mental Health in LGBT Youth, 2016). Factors include prevalent stigma and discrimination, exclusion, rejection and isolation, homo/bi/transphobia, difficulties in coming out, lack of self-acceptance, among others.
According to Stonewall’s LGBT in Britain Health Report 2018, over half of LGTBQ+ people had experienced some form of depression in the previous year, one in eight between the ages of 18–24 said they had attempted to take their own lives, and a massive three in five (61%) suffered from an anxiety disorder.
Speak Out and Work on It
Yikes. Yet those stats are not meant to make us worried, angry or demoralised. As someone who has gone through the depths of depression, anxiety and poor mental health and ‘survived’, stronger and fiercer than ever, I’m a testament to the fact that not only should we talk more openly about mental and emotional wellbeing, but actively work on it just as we do our physical wellbeing as if it were a muscle that can be trained.
After all, we all have mental health.
For the past few months, I have been running Navigating Mental Health in the Workplace webinars with the wonderful Vessy Tasheva ( vessy.com ), Diversity & Inclusion Consultant and Mental Health Advocate (she/they).
I’d like to leave you with a few of our top actionable tips for navigating the trialling times that we are facing and most importantly, showing yourself a bit of kindness and compassion: (that you so damn deserve!)
Slow the f*ck down: Stillness is an art. Watch this TED Talk by Liz Gilbert It’s OK to feel overwhelmed.
Here’s what to do next which reminds us that; “What is happening with the world right now is that basically all of our pacifiers were yanked out of our mouths — everything that we ever can do and reach for that can get us out of having to be in the existential crisis of being alone with ourselves was taken away, and people are rushing to fill the void.” Don’t be hard on yourself if you’re not “productive” or “doing quarantine right.” We are all doing our best.
Learn to identify what you can vs can’t control:
Change is a constant. A crisis is an opportunity to learn more about ourselves and grow. The focus of what you can influence is typically much smaller than you think… for anything that you are taking personally, or for which you feel helpless, check out this resource by coach Rich Goddard on the layers of control.
Don’t ignore physical symptoms of stress:
Instead of immediately repressing them, allow them to be felt. Recognise what type of Fear-Fight-Flight-Freeze response is engaged (which have evolved historically to protect us), and learn how you can use your body to counteract them. Check-in with yourself.
Apply the APPLE technique (Anxiety UK):
When you feel panicked or highly anxious, think APPLE: Acknowledge — Pause — Pull back — Let go — Explore.
Treat that mind-body-self:
Book a date night, or at least an hour with yourself and for yourself a week. Make sure it is authentically yours and blocked off on your calendar. Be it a candlelit dinner, a nice hot bath, a HIIT class, whatever floats your boat. Protect it.
If you really need to speak to someone, get the right kind of help…
Fear of discrimination may lead some people to hide their sexual orientation and gender identity when seeking mental health support. Thankfully, there are people stepping up to the game — at HelsaHelps.com. It is a new digital health platform focused on affordable therapy matching, you can find health care professionals that are equipped and trained to deal with LGBTQ+ specific issues.