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Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual/Transgender Communities and Mental Health

Mental Health America works nationally and locally to raise awareness about mental health and ensures that those at-risk for mental illnesses and related disorders receive proper, timely and effective treatment. MHA incorporates culturally competent strategies to ensure that it is effectively addressing the treatment and psychosocial needs of consumers and families with diverse values, beliefs, sexual orientations and backgrounds that vary by race, ethnicity and/or language.

Statistics

Demographics/Societal Issues

The following statistics were taken from the “Mental Health and Mental Disorders” section of  Healthy People 2010 Companion Document for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Health published by the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association and the National Coalition for LGBT Health in 2001:

  • Like the general U.S. population, LGBT people are diverse in terms of cultural background, ethnic or racial identity, age, income and place of residence. Between 1.4 and 4.3 percent of women and 2.8 and 9.1 percent of men in the U.S. are classified as gay, lesbian or bisexual, depending on whether the estimate was derived from self-reporting or by reporting any sexual behavior with a person of the same gender since puberty.
  • Dealing with the possibilities of sexual prejudice, sexual orientation discrimination and anti-gay violence are stressors and can become major mental health concerns.

Attitudes

The following statistics were taken from a March 17, 2003 Witeck-Combs Communications/ Harris Interactive national survey on health care.

  • Eleven percent of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender adults said they are worried about depression/anxiety as a personal health risk, compared to 6 percent of heterosexuals.
  • Twenty-four percent o f LGBT adults said they have deliberately withheld their sexual practices from their doctor or other health care professional.
  • When choosing a doctor or health care professional, as many LGBT adults say it is important to them that a provider is known to be “gay-friendly” (25 percent) as it is to have that provider covered by their health insurance plan (24 percent).

Prevalence

The following statistics were taken from the “Mental Health and Mental Disorders” section of  Healthy People 2010 Companion Document for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Health published by the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association and the National Coalition for LGBT Health in 2001:

  • Gay men reported higher rates of major depression and panic attack syndrome than males who reported no same sex partners in the past year. Likewise, lesbian women reported higher rates of alcohol and drug dependence than their female counterparts who reported no same sex partners in the past year.1
  • A 1994 National Lesbian Health Care Survey found that symptoms of depression among lesbians were roughly equivalent to those among heterosexual women. Other studies found lower depression rates among women in relationships, lesbians who had more social support from friends and family, and those who were more open about their sexual orientation.
  • Another study reported higher levels of depressive symptoms among African-American gay men and lesbians than those found in studies of the general population of African Americans.2

Treatment Issues

The following statistics were taken from the “Mental Health and Mental Disorders” section of  Healthy People 2010 Companion Document for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Health published by the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association and the National Coalition for LGBT Health in 2001:

  • In mental health care, stigma, lack of cultural sensitivity and unconscious and conscious reluctance to address sexuality all may hamper effectiveness of care. Treatments that rely on group therapies and support groups are also vulnerable to the effects of discrimination, with participants often forming a justifiable fear that full disclosure of personal details may adversely affect their standing in the group or health care setting.
  • LGBT people report discriminatory treatment following disclosure of sexual orientation in paramedical and auxiliary care settings, including nursing homes, domestic violence centers and senior centers.

Access/Insurance

The following statistics was taken from the “Mental Health and Mental Disorders” section of  Healthy People 2010 Companion Document for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Health published by the Gay and Lesbian Medical Association and the National Coalition for LGBT Health in 2001:

  • Barriers to care for LGBT people include systemic bias in health insurance and public entitlements, which routinely fail to cover gay and lesbian partners or to provide reimbursement for procedures of particular relevance to LGBT populations, such as fertility services to lesbians or surgical procedures required by transsexuals.

Educational Materials

MHA has developed unique materials for the LGBT audience:

Brochures

Fact Sheets

Partnerships and Resources


  1.  Cochran, S.D., and Mays, V.M. Relation between psychiatric syndromes and behaviorally defined sexual orientation in a sample of the US population. American Journal of Epidemiology 151(5):516-523, 2001.
  2.  Cochran, S.D., and Mays, V.M. Depressive distress among homosexually active African American men and women. American Journal of Psychiatry 151:524-529, 1994.

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