LGBTQ+ Self Care: a Manual

LGBTQ+ Self Care

Trigger Warning

Trigger warning; In this article there will be mentions of suicide, abuse, depression, eating disorders and substance abuse. If the content within this article is triggering for you, you will find contact details of various charities at the bottom of the article available to support you.

Table of Contents

Why is selfcare important?

Having self-care in place allows us to cope with daily stressors, lower your risk of becoming ill and some research has even proven that it can prolong a person’s lifespan. 

In 2017, Mind charity stated that self-care techniques and lifestyle changes can help manage the symptoms of mental health problems and prevent them from getting worse. Being aware of our own mental health includes identifying environments or situations that trigger negative mental health for you. For example when you are going into a depressive episode or pre anxiety attack, being able to identify these signs will allow you to cope better each time they occur

What is selfcare?

Selfcare is the responsibility in taking care of your own physical and emotional wellbeing by actively engaging in activities or being self-aware of your actions that can improve your mood and state of being.

LGBTQ+ Community Data

The BBC stated in 2021 that ‘lesbian, gay and bisexual people are more than twice as likely as heterosexuals to have a long-term mental health condition, an analysis of NHS data suggests that they are also more likely to drink heavily and smoke. LGBT people also reported lower average mental well-being scores than heterosexual people, with LGBT women having the lowest score of all groups. They were also more likely to drink more than the recommended units of alcohol. One-third of LGBT adults drank more than 14 units of alcohol a week, an amount which “put them at increased or higher risk of alcohol-related harm”, compared with a quarter of heterosexual people.’

Common Mental Health Conditions within the LGBTQ+ Community

Now we know the stats, let’s explore the common mental health challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community and how can we help improve or resolve this.

Common mental health issues that affect LGBTQIA+ individuals include trauma, substance abuse, depression, shame and eating disorders, and we experience higher than national average rates of suicide due to these conditions.

Many LGBTQIA+ individuals are more likely to experience events such as discrimination, harassment, bullying and hate crimes which centre their orientation. As recorded by Stonewall in 2022, YouGov carried out a poll of more than 5,000 LGBT people in Britain and found that one in five LGBT people have experienced a hate crime or incident because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity in the last 12 months. Additionally, the risk of suicide attempts was found to have doubled within LGBTQIA+ teenagers and adults and substance abuse rates were all higher than rates in heterosexual individuals.

Depression has scientifically been proven to impact a person’s quality of life and is said to be a common mental health issue within the LGBTQIA+ community. Transgender people are four times more likely to experience depression and have a higher chance of experiencing eating disorders. Eating disorders can be a crippling mental illness to experience however, like the previous mental health problems mentioned there are effective treatments that can help aid recovery. 

Ways in which you can improve your mental health

Talking about your feelings

Being listened to can help you feel supported and less alone. Although opening up to others can be difficult, sharing our problems can alleviate the weight of what we’re experiencing, and allows others to help us through challenging periods. More often than not, friends and family can offer support or new perspectives that you may not have otherwise considered.

Ask for help

Join a support group or find a counsellor if you are struggling. Your GP may be able to refer you to a counsellor. You should consider getting help from your GP if you are struggling, you are not alone!

LGBTQ+ self care and LGBTQ+ yoga

Keep active

Exercise releases chemicals in the body called endorphins that make you feel good.; regular exercise can boost your self-esteem, improve your sleep and is a great mood.

Journal your thoughts

Tracking your mood in the form of a diary can be helpful alongside building your self-esteem to feel more confident in coping with your mental health

Take a bath (with candles, bubbles and soft music)

Taking a bath at night is a great way to relieve stress and helps wind the body down after a long day. The hot water can help ease aches and pains and the soft music creates a zen space

Take a walk in nature

Being at one with nature is said to alleviate depression and anxiety and release endorphins. Many people feel relaxed in nature and a breath of fresh air is always good for the soul

Why do LGBTQ+ people experience these conditions?

It’s important to remember that being LGBTQIA+ isn’t the cause these problems; it’s the effects of discrimination, homophobia or transphobia, social isolation and rejection that can lead to our community experiencing these mental health conditions.

A common emotion that LGBTQIA+ people suffer with is shame with their gender identity and self-expression, this can cause many LGBTQIA+ individuals to repress their orientation or gender identity. Internalised shame can lead to depression and anxiety. Allen and Oleson (1999) reported a strong relationship between internalised homophobia and shame, greater shame was associated with higher levels of internalised homophobia, whereas less internalised homophobia was associated with higher self-esteem among their study participants. 

[David J. Allen PhD & Terry Oleson PhD (1999) Shame and Internalized Homophobia in Gay Men, Journal of Homosexuality, 37:3, 33-43, DOI: 10.1300/J082v37n03_03]

Many people apart of the community have had to lean into this feeling of shame and dig deep to find the cause of this feeling.

It’s therefore  so important to have queer icons and to look up to others around you who have a positive self-image and confidence within their orientation and sexuality.

One of the points was “stats might show lgbtq+ people suffer higher rates of anxiety, so include a suggestion for self-care of anxiety” so I included this and the reasons we may have higher rates.

Seeking Support for your Mental Health

All in all, self-care is an important practice for anyone’s life and what may work for you may not work for someone else, therefore research or seek professional advice on practices that work well and suit you.

We list or range of counsellors, therapists and mental health practitioners on our website who can support you through times of difficulty and change.

Other Charities Available to Support You

Below are organisations or useful contacts if anyone is in need of support for their mental health and wellbeing.

It’s okay to not be okay, but please seek help when needed.

The organisation runs youth groups in London, Leeds and Bristol for trans, non-binary and questioning young people. It also runs a peer-led support group in London for people aged 18 to 30.

Imaan is a charity that supports lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, queer or questioning (LGBTQ) Muslims, providing an online forum where people can share experiences and ask for help.

This membership organisation work to support LGBT+ organisations and projects around the country. Use the site’s Member’s Directory to find local mental health services.

The LGBT Foundation offers information, advice, and support services, including a Talking Therapies Programme to LGBT people.

London Friend offers support groups and services, such as counselling and drug and alcohol support, to LGBT people in and around London.

Get information about mental health support for people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, non-binary, queer or questioning (LGBTIQ).

Pink Therapy has an online directory of therapists who work with people who are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex and queer or questioning (LGBTIQ), and people who are gender- and sexual-diverse (GSD).

Find LGBT mental health services near you using Stonewall’s “What’s in my area?” search box.

Switchboard provides a listening service for LGBT+ people over the phone, via email and online chat. It can provide you with contact details of an LGBTQ-friendly therapist.

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