Each October, we celebrate Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer+ (LGBTQ+) History Month. This observation was created in 1994 by Rodney Wilson, a Missouri high school history teacher. October was selected to coincide with the first National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights (October 14, 1979) and National Coming Out Day, October 11th.
Lake County Behavioral Health Services acknowledges community members that identify as LGBTQ+ have unique strengths and challenges. Unfortunately, for generations, the field of Behavioral Health exacerbated stigma and mistreatment. Use of “conversion therapy,” where LGBTQ+ people received psychological “treatment” to “convert” to being heterosexual, is just one example. The American Psychological Association (APA) issued a statement in 2018 acknowledging the damage caused by this harmful practice.
People identifying as LGBTQ+ are at greater risk of suicide, as they often experience stigma and bullying because of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity. The Trevor Project was founded in 1998 to honor a young man who attempted to take his own life because of the lack of acceptance he faced from being LGBTQ+ (https://www.thetrevorproject.org/).
2019 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Youth Risk Behavior Surveillance System data reveal LGBTQ+ youth are more than three times more likely to attempt suicide, and suicide is the second leading cause of death among high school-aged youth (14-18) in the United States. Unfortunately, the stigma around both mental illness and LGBTQ+ can prohibit those in need from getting help.
“People that identify as LGBTQ+ generally experience mental health issues at higher rates,” notes Todd Metcalf, Director of Lake County Behavioral Health Services. The American Psychiatric Association notes “LGBTQ individuals are 2.5 times more likely to experience depression, anxiety and substance misuse, compared with heterosexual individuals.” The National Transgender Discrimination Survey found more than 40% of transgender individuals have attempted suicide; this is almost nine times the overall rate in the United States. The Human Rights Campaign reports, in 2020, 44 transgender or gender non-conforming people were murdered. The majority were people of color.
So this month and throughout the year, please offer support to someone you know who may be struggling. Active listening is the best way to start, along with asking how to help. This is a time to celebrate the history and achievements of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer+ people, and to reach out to those in need of mental health support.
For more information, please contact Lake County Behavioral Health Services at 707-274-9101 or 707-994-7090.