Indeed, according to the Mental Health Foundation, there is a disproportioned number of people within the LGBT community struggling with their mental health right now. Evidence suggests that people in the LGBT community are more likely to experience a range of ailments, including depression, suicidal thoughts, self-harm and alcohol and substance misuse, all of which can be avoided with the proper support and care.
“For some people, ‘coming out’ can be a liberating experience but individuals who face rejection could feel the need to hide their real selves, and this could have a negative impact on their mental wellbeing,” says Chloe Ward, a TMS Technician at Smart TMS, the UK’s leading mental health clinic specialising in Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation. “Fortunately, in recent years, the LGBT community has become more widely accepted.”
Here, she discusses why it’s so important that we’re more vocal about mental health in the LGBT community and shares her tips for managing any mental health conditions.
Why should we speak out about mental health issues?
Stigma, shame, embarrassment are feelings that may prevent someone from seeking help. Containing negative emotions for too long can have serious implications both mentally and physically as these emotions can build up and if you do not find a release, can weigh on you mentally.
If you have experienced any of the following symptoms, you should seek help:
- Feeling constantly tired or lack of energy
- Feeling fearful
- Shutting yourself away from people
- No longer wanting to do things you generally enjoy
- Using alcohol or drugs to cope with feelings
- Harming yourself or thinking about it
It’s important to remember that you are not alone. Don’t suffer in silence – if you’re not ready to speak with friends or family you could seek help from LGBT support groups or a doctor, where you can share your feelings and receive advice on how to seek further help.
What happens if a mental health issue is left unresolved?
Because mental illnesses are not often physically identifiable, it’s easy for them to go unnoticed and untreated. Like many physical illnesses, they don’t simply ‘go away’ over time and often the longer they persist the harder they become to treat. For example, people with depression might only experience a handful of symptoms to begin with, but if left untreated these may expand and become more frequent.
What are the best ways to manage your mental health?
It may feel as if you’re on your own, but having a mental illness is not a reflection on your coping skills or a personal failure. If you start feeling something isn’t right, speak to a friend, family member or professional early on. There are professionals out there trained to help you.
Some practical advice for managing your mental health is:
- Get enough of sleep (I recommend 6-8 hours)
- Eat a well-balanced diet
- Avoid excessive alcohol consumption
- Avoid smoking and drugs, particularly after drinking
It is also important to know what triggers your stress, and to learn ways to manage these triggers. Being physically active and doing something you enjoy in your daily routine, also helps.
What to do if someone you know is struggling with their mental health?
If someone has spoken to you about their mental health concerns and you feel they may benefit from treatment, work together to find the best options for them. It’s important to give them space to talk and listen to how they are feeling – be patient and remain calm as it may be difficult for them to express their feelings. It may help to actively research support groups and offer to attend the first appointment with them.
What is the best course of action for someone struggling with their mental health?
There are specially trained networks, such as the Albert Kennedy trust or Imaan, which help to support people in LGBT communities. Also consider low cost or free counselling services which can be found online or by asking local LGBT services. For individuals with depression or anxiety who feel counselling or medication is not helping, consider drug-free, non-intrusive treatments such as Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation (TMS). This form of treatment uses targeted magnetic pulses to stimulate the areas of the brain affected by mental health conditions to reduce symptoms.