Mental Health and the LGBTQ+ Community
The 30 days in June help raise awareness about the experiences of two groups. Juneteenth—a U.S. federal holiday, observed on June 19—commemorates the emancipation of enslaved African Americans and the entire month celebrates LGBTQ+ Pride to honor the 1969 Stonewall riots and work done for equal justice and equal opportunities for members of the LGBTQ+ community.
Despite the paid holiday, parades, picnics, parties, workshops, concerts, and other fanfare surrounding the advocacy efforts and support for these populations, research indicates that racial/ethnic, gender, and sexual minorities often suffer from poor mental health outcomes due to multiple factors, including inaccessibility to high-quality mental health care, the cultural stigma that still surrounds mental health, and discrimination.1
For instance, while the rates of mental illnesses in African Americans are similar to those in the general population, disparities exist in access to mental health care services.1 And members of the LGBTQ+ community are more than twice as likely to have a mental health disorder in their lifetime than their heterosexual counterparts.1
LGBTQ+ Community and Mental Health Experiences
LGBTQ+ rights, advocacy, and awareness have progressed and evolved over the last 50 years. Gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender characters are supporting and main characters in mainstream movies, television shows, books, and more. Openly LGBTQ+ people can serve in our armed forces. Same-sex marriage is legal in all 50 states. Professional athletes, musicians, actors, actresses, and political leaders have “come out” as lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.
Unfortunately, it’s still not all rainbows. Despite this progress, members of the LGBTQ+ community still struggle with stigma, shame, and acceptance, making them vulnerable to mental health issues, such as depression, anxiety, and substance use disorders.
Congressman Ritchie Torres, who represents New York City’s 15th district in the Bronx, made history in 2021, as the first gay African American/Latin American person elected to Congress. In interviews, he has opened up about his own past personal battles with substance misuse, depression, and the grief of losing his best friend to an opioid overdose.2
In a 2019 National School Climate Survey conducted by the Gay, Lesbian, and Straight Education Network (GLSEN) it was discovered that:3
- 42.5% of LGBTQ students felt unsafe at school due to their gender expression.
- 37.4% of LGBTQ students felt unsafe at school due to their gender.
- 59.1% of LGBTQ students felt unsafe at school due to their sexual orientation.
In terms of suicide statistics among the LGBTQ+ youth community, the data speaks a heartbreaking truth, including:4
- LGBTQ youth are more than 4 times as likely to attempt suicide compared to their peers.
- Suicide is the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10 and 24. However, LGBTQ youth are at a higher risk.
- LGBTQ youth are not prone to be suicide risks due to their gender identity or sexual orientation. Instead, they are at a higher risk due to being stigmatized and mistreated.
- At least 1 LGBTQ youth attempts suicide every 45 seconds in the United States.
- According to the 2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health, more than 50% of non-binary and transgender youth seriously considered attempting suicide.
Additionally, research shows that people in the LGBTQ+ community use and misuse substances in greater numbers as compared with the general population. Not all, but many, turn to substances as a way to escape their negative thoughts, living circumstances, and internal shame and stigma learned through years of unequal treatment.
According to a 2020 National Survey on Drug Use and Health, among lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults, aged 26 or older:5
- 2.2 million of them had an alcohol use disorder.
- 296,000 of them had an opioid use disorder.
- 1.4 million of them had a marijuana use disorder.
Furthermore, identity-based shame and experiences with homophobia or transphobia can be traumatic. Being bullied and/or discriminated against for who you are can weigh heavily on one’s mental health. It may lead to mental health conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and may contribute to fueling addictions.
If you’re one of these LGBTQ+ individuals, and you struggle with substance misuse or a mental health condition, you are not alone. While American Addiction Centers (AAC) actively supports and protects the needs of the LGBTQ+ community at all of our facilities, some of our treatment centers offer specialized tracks and groups tailored to meet the specific needs of LGBTQ+ individuals. The AAC facilities that offer an LGBTQ+ support program include Oxford Treatment Center in Mississippi, River Oaks Treatment Center in Florida, Greenhouse Treatment Center in Texas, Laguna Treatment Hospital in California, AdCare Treatment Hospital and AdCare Hospital Outpatient, both in Massachusetts, AdCare Rhode Island, and AdCare Rhode Island Outpatient. Additionally, these facilities provide safe medical detox, inpatient and outpatient treatment, and aftercare planning.
Call AAC at to speak to one of our compassionate and knowledgeable admissions navigators, who can answer your questions, explain all of your options, and get you started on your path to recovery.