Men­tal health:

Un­der­stand­ing spe­cial is­sues fac­ing LGBT peo­ple.

GA Voice - - Front Page - By DYANA BAGBY dbagby@the­gavoice.com

July is Na­tional Mi­nor­ity Men­tal Health Aware­ness Month, and in At­lanta, the Health Ini­tia­tive is team­ing up with the DeKalb County chap­ter of the Na­tional Al­liance on Men­tal Ill­ness to bring aware­ness to LGBT peo­ple about re­sources avail­able.

LGBT peo­ple with bipo­lar disorder, post­trau­matic stress disorder or chronic de­pres­sion not only face stigma not only be­cause of their sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and gen­der iden­tity, but also be­cause of their men­tal ill­ness.

“The dou­ble stigma of be­ing GLBT and hav­ing a men­tal ill­ness lim­its our ac­cess to re­sources and support. Not many can pro­vide spe­cial­ized care I think our com­mu­nity needs and this is a great dis­ser­vice,” says Alisa Porter, mar­ket­ing di­rec­tor of NAMI DeKalb.

“We’re not men­tally ill be­cause we are gay, but be­cause var­i­ous fac­tors im­pact our lives,” she adds.

Ar­lene Nor­iega, a psy­chol­o­gist who has stud­ied LGBT and men­tal health is­sues, is in pri­vate prac­tice and works with ado­les­cents and adults who iden­tify as LGBT as well as gen­der non­con­form­ing chil­dren, and also works with the Latino pop­u­la­tion.

She says sex­ual mi­nori­ties are two and a half times more likely than non-LGBT peo­ple to have at­tempted sui­cide.

“Stud­ies show that the trans­gen­der pop­u­la­tion risk for sui­cide at­tempts is sig­nif­i­cantly high. Some stud­ies have found that sex­ual mi­nor­ity women are at a higher risk for sub­stance abuse dis­or­ders while sex­ual mi­nor­ity men are at a higher risk for sui­ci­dal at­tempts,” Nor­iega says.

Chronic, per­sis­tent stress re­lated to stigma­ti­za­tion and marginal­iza­tion due to sex­ual ori­en­ta­tion and gen­der iden­tity is known as “mi­nor­ity stress,” she says.

When we don’t ac­knowl­edge this dis­crim­i­na­tion there is an in­crease in neg­a­tive health and men­tal health con­se­quences, she says. The dis­crim­i­na­tion can be overt, such as fam­ily re­jec­tion as ado­les­cents, sex­ual and phys­i­cal abuse, and hate crimes.

“How­ever, the dis­crim­i­na­tion can also be sub­tle and th­ese are known as mi­croa­gres­sions, which LGBT in­di­vid­u­als en­counter in their every­day lives, such as some­one us­ing het­ero­sex­ist or trans­pho­bic terms, such as fag, dyke or she-male, or when an LGBT per­son is told ‘not to act so gay,’” Nor­iega ex­plains.

One of the best ways to help peo­ple get the help they need is to erase stigma, she says.

“We need to un­der­stand that the men­tal health is­sues seen in the LGBT pop­u­la­tion as a re­sult of mi­nor­ity stress are nor­mal ways of re­spond­ing to ab­nor­mal en­vi­ron­men­tal stres­sors when our cop­ing is de­pleted,” she says. “We need to ad­dress peo­ple’s iso­la­tion and se­crecy around men­tal health is­sues through pub­lic ed­u­ca­tion.”

The Health Ini­tia­tive and NAMI DeKalb are join­ing forces to bring aware­ness to LGBT peo­ple about men­tal health with a panel dis­cus­sion at the Rush Cen­ter on July 27.

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