Every person these days is dealing with their share of stress but being a part of LGBTQ community comes with added stress to deal with like discrimination, low self esteem and identity issues, to name a few. These issues can be a serious impediment to their well being especially their mental health. More factors like age, religion, ethnicity and where they live can further add to the list of stressors.
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Research shows that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer have higher rate of mental challenges than general population (Fergusson et al, 1999). They seek counselling for reasons like Depression, Anxiety, Grief, Couple Therapy, work stress etc like non-LGBTQ individuals. For them their unique identity just not surrounds with whom they are attracted to but also their own gender identity and expression. Instead of having these differences being recognized, they most often frow up in an environment where they internalize these differences as a taboo or stigma in society.
They get their own unique set of challenges that they must cope with. Some of these challenges are:
Sexual identity issues or difficulty in accepting sexual orientation.
Coping with other people’s reaction to their sexuality.
Facing Gender Dysphoria (gender identity and expression is not same as the gender assigned at your birth).
Self-harm and suicidal thoughts
Coping with bullying and discrimination.
Isolation and rejection from family or loved ones
These issues can affect all aspects of life, primarily their relationships and career choices which can take a toll on their health and wellbeing. LGBTQ children and youth requires negotiation between their identity, sense of self, safety, connection with others and health in school. For adolescents’ identity development becomes even more difficult particularly when they experience rejection early on in life.
A 2015 report by the United States Centre of Disease Control and Prevention states that gay and bisexuals’ youth are four times likely to have attempted suicide in the past year than their straight classmates.
Having support in life is extremely important to lead a healthy life. LGBTQ individuals often feel isolated and afraid to seek counselling because of their constant struggle of being accepted. The main aim of counselling is to create a safe space and non-judgemental environment for the individuals to support their sexual identity exploration and identification. Counselling can help them relive stress by creating an empathetic environment for them to go through transitioning and coming out as their own true self. Challenges that they go through in their coming out process can also be worked through therapy.
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Affirmative counselling plays a crucial part about truly validating an identity while understanding the reality of being minority, help building coping skills, helping the client to connect with affirming communities and making connections. It also facilitates the clients to empower them in their relationships and other facets of their lives while honouring the struggles that they face as a community. Counsellors and therapists also handle their anxiety, depression by finding increased self-acceptance, handle family relationships and deal with career complications. Therapy can act as a tool in their journey for good mental health.