Center for Interfaith Cooperation

Hoosiers of Many Faiths in Community

Know before you go — Understanding Cultural Differences: LGBTQ+ Community.

May 15 — LGTBQ persons face many mental health challenges, some because of sexual identity, some because of social stigma, some because they are human beings.
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The next Interfaith Coalition for Mental Health luncheon will discuss mental health issues facing LGBTQ individuals. Our friends at the National Alliance for Mental Illness (NAMI) discuss some of these issues.

How Do Mental Health Conditions Affect The LGBTQ Community?

Understanding Cultural Differences: The LGBTQ+ Community

Wednesday May 15, 12:00-1:30 pm

Krannert Hall, Indiana Interchurch Center
1100 W. 42nd St. Indianapolis

LGBTQ individuals are almost 3 times more likely than others to experience a mental health condition such as major depression or generalized anxiety disorder. This fear of coming out and being discriminated against for sexual orientation and gender identities, can lead to depression, posttraumatic stress disorder, thoughts of suicide and substance abuse.

LGBTQ people must confront stigma and prejudice based on their sexual orientation or gender identity while also dealing with the societal bias against mental health conditions. Some people report having to hide their sexual orientation from those in the mental health system for fear of being ridiculed or rejected. Some hide their mental health conditions from their LGBTQ friends.

As a community, LGBTQ individuals do not often talk about mental health and may lack awareness about mental health conditions. This sometimes prevents people from seeking the treatment and support that they need to get better.

Prejudice & Stigma

The effects of this double or dual stigma can be particularly harmful, especially when someone seeks treatment.

Often termed “minority stress,” disparities in the LGBTQ community stem from a variety of factors including social stigma, discrimination, prejudice, denial of civil and human rights, abuse, harassment, victimization, social exclusion and family rejection.

Rates of mental health conditions are particularly high in bisexual and questioning individuals and those who fear or choose not to reveal their sexual orientation or gender identity. Though not all people will face mental health challenges, discrimination or violence, many people report less mental well-being and satisfaction.


The LGBTQ community is at a higher risk for suicide because we lack peer support and face harassment, mental health conditions and substance abuse. For LGBTQ people aged 10–24, suicide is one of the leading causes of death. LGBTQ youth are 4 times more likely and questioning youth are 3 times more likely to attempt suicide, experience suicidal thoughts or engage in self-harm than straight people. Between 38-65% of transgender individuals experience suicidal ideation.

Family support plays a particularly important role in affecting the likelihood of suicide. Someone who faced rejection after coming out to their families were more than 8 times more likely to have attempted suicide than someone who was accepted by their family after revealing their sexual orientation.

Substance Abuse

The LGBTQ community reports higher rates of drug, alcohol and tobacco use than that of straight people. Major factors that contribute to substance use by LGBTQ people include prejudice, discrimination, lack of cultural competency in the health care system and lack of peer support.

An estimated 20-30% of LGBTQ people abuse substances, compared to about 9% of the general population.

25% of LGBT people abuse alcohol, compared to 5-10% of the general population.


LGBTQ young people face fear, hatred and prejudice in school, with friends, in the community and at home, which can lead to higher risks of self-harm and thoughts of suicide. LGBTQ teens are six times more likely to experience symptoms of depression than the general population. Additionally, LGBTQ youth struggle in coming out to family members, friends, classmates and teachers, especially those that are not accepting of the LGBTQ community.

GLSEN, the Gay, Lesbian and Straight Education Network has developed an annual report called the National School Climate Survey, which reports on the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender youth in U.S. schools.

Early intervention, comprehensive treatment and family support are the key to helping LGBTQ youth on the road to recovery from a mental health condition. There are many resources available to help teens and young adults, including the It Gets Bettercampaign and The Trevor Project, which provides a national, 24-hr, toll-free confidential suicide hotline for LGBTQ youth at 866-488-7386. The Trevor Project also provides an online chat and confidential text messaging—text “Trevor” to 202-304-1200.

Disparities In Care

The history of mental health treatment of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and questioning (LGBTQ) populations is an uneasy one. In the 1950s and 60s, many psychiatrists believed that homosexuality, as well as bisexuality, was a mental illness. Gay men and lesbians were often subjected to treatment against their will, including forced hospitaliza­tions, aversion therapy and electroshock therapy.

Fortunately, there have been great strides made in the nearly 35 years since the American Psychiatric Association removed homosexuality from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, or the DSM. Despite this, there are still disparities and unequal treatment among LGBTQ groups seeking care.

Though more therapists and psychiatrists today have positive attitudes toward the LGBTQ community, people still face unequal care due to a lack of training and/or understanding. Health care providers still do not always have up-to-date knowledge of the unique needs of the LGBTQ community or training on LGBT mental health issues. Providers who lack knowledge and experience working with members of the LGBTQ community may focus more on a person’s sexual orientation and/or gender identity than a person’s mental health condition. 

Other events about mental health coming up

Mental Health & Our Community – Featuring Sarah Lund @ Saint Thomas Aquinas Roman Catholic Church
Sep 15 @ 5:00 pm – 7:00 pm
The fourth in a series of four dinners hosted by the Butler Tarkington Neighborhood Faith Communities. Four different speakers on the topic of Mental Health and how it impacts our lives, homes, and churches.
Church Leader Roundtable – Tackling Hard Topics @ Care to Change Counseling
Sep 17 @ 8:30 am – 10:00 am

Care to Change tackles hard topics with church leaders at this quarterly roundtable. September 17th topics include mental health and suicide. How to recognize signs, how to intervene, and how to resopnd when suicide strikes your church. Space is limited and breakfast is provided so registration is required to attend. Registration starts April 30.

The 2019 Interfaith Health & Wellness Summit presented by Anthem @ Biltwell Event Center
Sep 18 @ 8:00 am – 1:45 pm

Join us at the 2019 Interfaith Health & Wellness Summit!

Hear from speakers, engage in open discussions, and collaborate on new health programs that will strengthen our community’s mind, body, and soul.

Breakfast and lunch will be provided.

The event is free — advanced registration is required. Seating is limited.

RSVP by August 6, 2019

The Struggle Is Real: Youth Talking to Faith Leaders @ Krannert Hall, Indiana Interchurch Center
Oct 16 @ 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
At this ICMH event, pairs of youth and clergy will model healthy, productive conversations about mental health. Youth will ask faith leaders questions, and faith leaders will model how to be a safe space for these kinds of conversations.
Second Generation Immigrants @ Krannert Hall, Indiana Interchurch Center
Nov 20 @ 6:00 pm – 7:30 pm
Join us on November 20th, 2019 to hear stories from our immigrant neighbors about the intersectionality of youth, mental health, faith, and being an immigrant.
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