June 28, 2023
October 26, 2023

Pride Month and LGBTQ+ Mental Health: All You Need to Know

Counslr's Jessica Wolsiefer, LCSW discusses the origins and significance of Pride Month and the mental health of individuals in the LGBTQ+ community.

by
Jessica Wolsiefer, LCSW
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In the United States, June is known as Pride Month, when people come together to celebrate the achievements of the LGBTQ+ community and increase the visibility of the community across the globe. Pride Month has a long history dating back to the Stonewall Riots in 1969, during which the LGBTQ+ community fought back against police brutality and discrimination.

What are the origins of Pride Month, and why it is celebrated? What is the current state of LGBTQ+ rights? What are some of the challenges that communities continue to face, and how can we support their efforts? As Pride Month 2023 comes to a close, Counslr’s Jessica Wolsiefer, LCSW takes a deep dive into the history and significance of the event and explores the unique mental health challenges that the LGBTQ+ community continues to face.

The Origins

The Stonewall Riots took place on June 28, 1969 when police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in New York City. The patrons of the bar, mostly associated with the LGBTQ+ community, resisted and fought back, leading to several days of protests and demonstrations in the surrounding areas. These riots are now seen as a turning point in the LGBTQ+ rights movement, as they sparked the formation of many LGBTQ+ organizations and movements throughout the country.1

New York City’s first Pride March occurred on the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Originally called Christopher Street Liberation Day, the march began on Christopher Street where the bar was located and ended in Central Park. It was coordinated by LGBTQ+ activist Brenda Howard, who is often referred to as the "Mother of Pride."2 This march inspired many other Pride marches and events throughout the country and around the world. Pride Month is now celebrated in the United States and many other countries every June, with some countries celebrating at different times of the year. Many LGBTQ+ communities hold parades, parties, and other events to celebrate the progress that has been made in LGBTQ+ rights and to raise awareness of issues that still need to be addressed.

Progress…But Challenges Continue

While there have been significant gains in LGBTQ+ rights over the years, the community still faces myriad challenges. Discrimination, bullying, violence, and sometimes even familial rejection continue to be a problem, both in the United States and around the world. In addition, there are ongoing efforts to pass anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in many states, particularly in the areas of healthcare and education. As a result of the current social climate, some members of the community are deciding not to partake in Pride events this year due to safety concerns and fear of being targeted.

The social rejection and stigmatization of LGBTQ+ identities can cause stress, anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues. According to the Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGTBQ+ Youth Mental Health, 73 % of LGTBQ+ youth reported experiencing anxiety and 58 % reported experiencing depression, while 45% of LGBTQ+ youth reported suicidal ideation—all of which are significantly higher than their heterosexual and cisgender peers.3 In fact, LGBTQ+ youth are six times more likely to be depressed than their non-LGBTQ+ identifying peers, and twice as likely to feel suicidal.4 Some have reported heightened anxiety regarding how anti-LGBTQ+ legislation may affect trans care involving medication and transitional surgeries and are even fearful of traveling to certain states or regions of the country. All of these factors, coupled with a lack of access to affirming and inclusive health services, can make the LGBTQ+ journey towards self-acceptance and self-love feel like a treacherous one.

You Can Make a Difference

It is important to note that although rates of mental health and suicide may be disproportionately high in this population, how LGBTQ+ youth are treated can promote adaptive coping and therefore improve treatment outcomes.5 Several studies, such as those conducted by the Trevor Project, have shown significantly lower rates of suicidal ideation when youth feel supported by their friends and family.3 Even just one supportive adult can have a positive impact on mental health.5

As an ally, you can support your LGBTQ+ friends and family by showing your love, acceptance, and understanding. Some ways to do this include:

  • Supporting, attending, or otherwise participating in Pride or LGBTQ+ advocacy events.
  • Using gender-neutral language.
  • Advocating for LGBTQ+ rights and speaking out against homophobic or transphobic comments.
  • Supporting an LGBTQ+ youth group and listening to people’s lived experiences.

Though there seems to be a rise in anti-LGBT sentiment in today’s immediate climate, it is important to also remember how far we have come since the Stonewall Riots. A bird’s-eye view shows that we have seen an increase in federal and local support for the LGBTQ+ community. This is evident in the annual celebration of Pride Month itself, as June was officially declared LGBT Pride Month just 12 years ago by former President Barack Obama.6 The following year, leaders from across the country came together to show their support in the White House's LGBTQ+ Pride Month Champions of Change Video Challenge, which highlights the stories of leaders in the community who have gone above and beyond to promote LGBTQ+ rights.7

The Road Ahead

As Pride Month comes to a close in 2023, we must remember both the work that has been done and the challenges that still lie ahead for those in the LGBTQ+ community. We have made immense progress in achieving equality and visibility over the last few decades, with both LGBTQ+ individuals and allies paving the way towards acceptance and understanding. However, anti-LGBTQ+ legislation still exists in many states throughout our country, making it difficult for those in the movement to live freely, authentically and openly.

For these reasons, there is a much greater need for mental health resources within this population, including therapists and other helping professionals, who are accepting and affirming. Beyond understanding the grief and marginalization this population faces, we must work towards acceptance and advocacy for their rights and freedoms. This means doing what we can to repeal anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, participating in year-round pride events (not just during the month of June), assisting those who seek counseling and support services regardless of sexuality or gender identity, being role models and mentors to younger members of the LGBTQ+ community, providing resources and time to LGBTQ+ focused organizations, and volunteering at local support groups or shelters.

Where to Get Help

If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health issues, don't hesitate to seek help. You can reach out to hotlines like The Trevor Project, the Gay and Lesbian National Hotline, the Trans Life Line, or a local LGBTQ+ organization. These groups offer therapeutic support, resources, and referrals.5 If you want to keep updated on anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and the latest in LGBTQ+ rights, you can also check visit the ACLU’s tracker website.

Together we can all stand united against inequality and create a more inclusive society, one that celebrates diversity during every month of the year.

References

  1. Walsh, Colleen. “Harvard Scholars Reflect on the History and Legacy of the Stonewall Riots.” Harvard Gazette, 7 Sept. 2021, news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2019/06/harvard-scholars-reflect-on-the-history-and-legacy-of-the-stonewall-riots/. Accessed 20 June 2023.
  2. Goodman, Elyssa. “Meet ‘the Mother of Pride,’ the Pioneering Bisexual Activist Brenda Howard.” Them, 6 June 2019, www.them.us/story/brenda-howard. Accessed 20 June 2023.
  3. “2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health.” The Trevor Project, www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2022/#intro. Accessed 17 June 2023.
  4. “LGBTQ+ Communities and Mental Health.” Mental Health America, mhanational.org/issues/lgbtq-communities-and-mental-health. Accessed 17 June 2023.
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Moving Beyond Change Efforts: Evidence and Action to Support and Affirm LGBTQI+ Youth. SAMHSA Publication No. PEP22­ 03-12-001. Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2023.
  6. “Presidential Proclamation--Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.” National Archives and Records Administration, obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2011/05/31/presidential-proclamation-lesbian-gay-bisexual-and-transgender-pride-mon. Accessed 23 June 2023.
  7. “Announcing the LGBT Pride Month Champions of Change Video Challenge.” National Archives and Records Administration, obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2012/04/09/announcing-lgbt-pride-month-champions-change-video-challenge. Accessed 23 June 2023.

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and should not be attributed to Counslr, Inc., its partners, its employees, or any other mental health professionals Counslr employs. You should review this information and any questions regarding your specific circumstances with a medical professional. The content provided here is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as counseling, therapy, or professional medical advice.

June 28, 2023
October 26, 2023

Pride Month and LGBTQ+ Mental Health: All You Need to Know

by
Jessica Wolsiefer, LCSW

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In the United States, June is known as Pride Month, when people come together to celebrate the achievements of the LGBTQ+ community and increase the visibility of the community across the globe. Pride Month has a long history dating back to the Stonewall Riots in 1969, during which the LGBTQ+ community fought back against police brutality and discrimination.

What are the origins of Pride Month, and why it is celebrated? What is the current state of LGBTQ+ rights? What are some of the challenges that communities continue to face, and how can we support their efforts? As Pride Month 2023 comes to a close, Counslr’s Jessica Wolsiefer, LCSW takes a deep dive into the history and significance of the event and explores the unique mental health challenges that the LGBTQ+ community continues to face.

The Origins

The Stonewall Riots took place on June 28, 1969 when police raided the Stonewall Inn, a popular gay bar in New York City. The patrons of the bar, mostly associated with the LGBTQ+ community, resisted and fought back, leading to several days of protests and demonstrations in the surrounding areas. These riots are now seen as a turning point in the LGBTQ+ rights movement, as they sparked the formation of many LGBTQ+ organizations and movements throughout the country.1

New York City’s first Pride March occurred on the first anniversary of the Stonewall Riots. Originally called Christopher Street Liberation Day, the march began on Christopher Street where the bar was located and ended in Central Park. It was coordinated by LGBTQ+ activist Brenda Howard, who is often referred to as the "Mother of Pride."2 This march inspired many other Pride marches and events throughout the country and around the world. Pride Month is now celebrated in the United States and many other countries every June, with some countries celebrating at different times of the year. Many LGBTQ+ communities hold parades, parties, and other events to celebrate the progress that has been made in LGBTQ+ rights and to raise awareness of issues that still need to be addressed.

Progress…But Challenges Continue

While there have been significant gains in LGBTQ+ rights over the years, the community still faces myriad challenges. Discrimination, bullying, violence, and sometimes even familial rejection continue to be a problem, both in the United States and around the world. In addition, there are ongoing efforts to pass anti-LGBTQ+ legislation in many states, particularly in the areas of healthcare and education. As a result of the current social climate, some members of the community are deciding not to partake in Pride events this year due to safety concerns and fear of being targeted.

The social rejection and stigmatization of LGBTQ+ identities can cause stress, anxiety, depression, or other mental health issues. According to the Trevor Project’s 2022 National Survey on LGTBQ+ Youth Mental Health, 73 % of LGTBQ+ youth reported experiencing anxiety and 58 % reported experiencing depression, while 45% of LGBTQ+ youth reported suicidal ideation—all of which are significantly higher than their heterosexual and cisgender peers.3 In fact, LGBTQ+ youth are six times more likely to be depressed than their non-LGBTQ+ identifying peers, and twice as likely to feel suicidal.4 Some have reported heightened anxiety regarding how anti-LGBTQ+ legislation may affect trans care involving medication and transitional surgeries and are even fearful of traveling to certain states or regions of the country. All of these factors, coupled with a lack of access to affirming and inclusive health services, can make the LGBTQ+ journey towards self-acceptance and self-love feel like a treacherous one.

You Can Make a Difference

It is important to note that although rates of mental health and suicide may be disproportionately high in this population, how LGBTQ+ youth are treated can promote adaptive coping and therefore improve treatment outcomes.5 Several studies, such as those conducted by the Trevor Project, have shown significantly lower rates of suicidal ideation when youth feel supported by their friends and family.3 Even just one supportive adult can have a positive impact on mental health.5

As an ally, you can support your LGBTQ+ friends and family by showing your love, acceptance, and understanding. Some ways to do this include:

  • Supporting, attending, or otherwise participating in Pride or LGBTQ+ advocacy events.
  • Using gender-neutral language.
  • Advocating for LGBTQ+ rights and speaking out against homophobic or transphobic comments.
  • Supporting an LGBTQ+ youth group and listening to people’s lived experiences.

Though there seems to be a rise in anti-LGBT sentiment in today’s immediate climate, it is important to also remember how far we have come since the Stonewall Riots. A bird’s-eye view shows that we have seen an increase in federal and local support for the LGBTQ+ community. This is evident in the annual celebration of Pride Month itself, as June was officially declared LGBT Pride Month just 12 years ago by former President Barack Obama.6 The following year, leaders from across the country came together to show their support in the White House's LGBTQ+ Pride Month Champions of Change Video Challenge, which highlights the stories of leaders in the community who have gone above and beyond to promote LGBTQ+ rights.7

The Road Ahead

As Pride Month comes to a close in 2023, we must remember both the work that has been done and the challenges that still lie ahead for those in the LGBTQ+ community. We have made immense progress in achieving equality and visibility over the last few decades, with both LGBTQ+ individuals and allies paving the way towards acceptance and understanding. However, anti-LGBTQ+ legislation still exists in many states throughout our country, making it difficult for those in the movement to live freely, authentically and openly.

For these reasons, there is a much greater need for mental health resources within this population, including therapists and other helping professionals, who are accepting and affirming. Beyond understanding the grief and marginalization this population faces, we must work towards acceptance and advocacy for their rights and freedoms. This means doing what we can to repeal anti-LGBTQ+ legislation, participating in year-round pride events (not just during the month of June), assisting those who seek counseling and support services regardless of sexuality or gender identity, being role models and mentors to younger members of the LGBTQ+ community, providing resources and time to LGBTQ+ focused organizations, and volunteering at local support groups or shelters.

Where to Get Help

If you or a loved one is struggling with mental health issues, don't hesitate to seek help. You can reach out to hotlines like The Trevor Project, the Gay and Lesbian National Hotline, the Trans Life Line, or a local LGBTQ+ organization. These groups offer therapeutic support, resources, and referrals.5 If you want to keep updated on anti-LGBTQ+ legislation and the latest in LGBTQ+ rights, you can also check visit the ACLU’s tracker website.

Together we can all stand united against inequality and create a more inclusive society, one that celebrates diversity during every month of the year.

References

  1. Walsh, Colleen. “Harvard Scholars Reflect on the History and Legacy of the Stonewall Riots.” Harvard Gazette, 7 Sept. 2021, news.harvard.edu/gazette/story/2019/06/harvard-scholars-reflect-on-the-history-and-legacy-of-the-stonewall-riots/. Accessed 20 June 2023.
  2. Goodman, Elyssa. “Meet ‘the Mother of Pride,’ the Pioneering Bisexual Activist Brenda Howard.” Them, 6 June 2019, www.them.us/story/brenda-howard. Accessed 20 June 2023.
  3. “2022 National Survey on LGBTQ Youth Mental Health.” The Trevor Project, www.thetrevorproject.org/survey-2022/#intro. Accessed 17 June 2023.
  4. “LGBTQ+ Communities and Mental Health.” Mental Health America, mhanational.org/issues/lgbtq-communities-and-mental-health. Accessed 17 June 2023.
  5. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA): Moving Beyond Change Efforts: Evidence and Action to Support and Affirm LGBTQI+ Youth. SAMHSA Publication No. PEP22­ 03-12-001. Rockville, MD: Center for Substance Abuse Prevention. Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, 2023.
  6. “Presidential Proclamation--Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Pride Month.” National Archives and Records Administration, obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2011/05/31/presidential-proclamation-lesbian-gay-bisexual-and-transgender-pride-mon. Accessed 23 June 2023.
  7. “Announcing the LGBT Pride Month Champions of Change Video Challenge.” National Archives and Records Administration, obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/blog/2012/04/09/announcing-lgbt-pride-month-champions-change-video-challenge. Accessed 23 June 2023.

The views and opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and should not be attributed to Counslr, Inc., its partners, its employees, or any other mental health professionals Counslr employs. You should review this information and any questions regarding your specific circumstances with a medical professional. The content provided here is for informational and educational purposes only and should not be construed as counseling, therapy, or professional medical advice.

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