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What Is Mental Health?

Mental health is a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realise their abilities, learn well, work well, and contribute to their community. It is an integral component of health and well-being that underpins our individual and collective abilities to make decisions, build relationships and shape the world we live in (World Health Organisation).

Mental Health Challenges for Older LGBT+ People

As many as 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem of some kind every year in England (See Mind Website). The likelihood of experiencing mental health problems if you are LGBT+ is even higher.

Attitudes and laws have changed for the better but older LGBT+ people have a long personal history of lived experiences that may include discrimination, rejection, social isolation, and negative reactions from family, friends and colleagues. Some people have lived large parts of their lives without feeling able to tell anyone that they are LGBT+

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Here are some reasons that LGBT+ people are more likely to experience mental health challenges

  • Stigma – Stigma is a negative attitude or belief about a group of people. The negative attitudes that LGBT+ people may experience in their daily lives can become internalised leading to feelings of shame, isolation, and depression.
  • Discrimination – Discrimination is the unfair treatment of a person or group based on a defining characteristic. LGBT+ people may face discrimination in many aspects of their daily life due to their gender identity or sexual orientation. (Read about the UK laws against discrimination here)
  • Abuse – Abuse can take many forms, including physical assault, sexual assault, and verbal abuse.
  • Coming Out – Many people have positive experiences of “coming out” and receive support from those around them. But some people find disclosing an LGBT+ identity leads to problems with family, friends and work colleagues.
  • Relationships – Being LGBT+ can make it harder to form and maintain relationships with others. Finding partners for romance and sex can be more complicated.

There are a number of things that society can do to support LGBT+ mental health. These include providing education and awareness about LGBT+ issues, reducing stigma and discrimination, and providing access to mental health services that are affirming and inclusive. There are also lots of things we can do to help ourselves.

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